Empty protests of Qatar World Cup show players see evil, but can’t close FIFA’s Pandora’s Box

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They’ve got shirts.

They’ve got shirts.
Image: Getty Images

It’s been a week for performative protests in soccer. Last Sunday, Glasgow Celtic and Rangers followed Wilfried Zaha’s lead and tore the facade of the kneeling before the opening whistle protest. It was just three days after one of Rangers’ players was racially abused by an opponent, and it was clear to them that kneeling wasn’t getting anywhere.

Apparently, the sport has found a new cause. Both Norway and Germany wore T-shirts like this before their World Cup qualifiers those past two days.

That’s nice. Qatar, the host of the World Cup that Germany and Norway were trying to criticize here, has an abominable record on human rights, even outside of the construction of stadiums, hotels, trains, and everything else for the 2022 tournament where 6,000 migrant workers have died. There definitely should be uproar about that country hosting this tournament, which it was never equipped to do when it was awarded it by FIFA. Fuck, the tournament should have been stripped from the country years ago, as soon as the first reports of the horrifying treatment of migrant workers in that country. Of course, that didn’t happen, because the oil-rich country kept waving singles in front of FIFA execs to keep dancing.

Except, after wearing these shirts, Norway and Germany went out and played their qualifiers. They attempted to qualify for this tournament. Presumably, they both want to play in it. So what exactly is their protest? “Hey, this place we’re trying to get to is really shitty and people are dying in service to make already really rich people even richer but we’re still gonna go if we can.” Wow, stinging. You can hear the pitchforks being raised, can’t you?

Nothing short of all the big countries refusing to go to the tourney is going to accomplish anything. And that’s never going to happen. It’s not fair to the players to ask them to take such a huge step. Such a small percentage of players even get a chance to play in a World Cup, and to ask them to bear the responsibility of boycotting a country they played no role in awarding the World Cup to is unfair. That has to be a decision from the federations or FIFA or both, and again…the waving cash.

At the same time, by wearing these shirts, the players are basically admitting they know that they’re part of something abhorrent and evil, they’re just not willing to do much more than the minimum about it. Merely wearing a shirt about it is the gentlest paw of revolt.

Either you’re about it or you’re not about it. This is a quarter measure at best.

Staying in the world of footy, the USMNT was able to gather their European contingent again (i.e. their best players) for a friendly against Jamaica yesterday. It’s nearly impossible to draw any conclusions from these slapped-together exhibitions, especially as this was a Jamaica side that hadn’t really played together before. There were only a couple days of practice as well.

It’s also nearly impossible to see Barcelona’s Sergiño Dest come up with this devil shit and not get excited.

Dest was pulling this as a right-back as well, which is pretty much entering Erik Karlsson on uppers territory if we’re allowed to mix sports and drugs metaphors. The U.S. beat the Reggae Boyz 4-1, and if nothing else it feels good to soak in anything good the USMNT does. Or feeling funny in funny places thanks to Dest.

To hockey, and more to the point societal parallels. Just two days ago, referee Tim Peel, an authority figure let’s say, got caught on a hot mic, a monitoring device let’s say, with impropriety in the form of admitting to looking for penalties to even out a game. So what happened immediately after?

Well that’s another ref, a fellow authority figure, covering his mic while talking to a player about something. Covering his mic so he can’t be heard and we can’t find out what goes on in pivotal moments. So he can’t be caught doing something he shouldn’t.

Gee, where else have we seen this kind of thing?

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