How can we celebrate Saudi Arabia win and protest the World Cup being in Qatar?

Saudi Arabia celebrate goal v Argentina Credit: Alamy
Saudi Arabia celebrate goal v Argentina Credit: Alamy

The whys and wherefores of the World Cup and the Middle East dominate a Mailbox that also touches on Man Utd.

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Alas Alejandro!
Watching that ridiculously high line from Saudi Arabia which the geriatric Argentinian frontline struggled to beat without falling prey to the offside flag 27 million times in the first half, it struck me – what Argentina needed was a young, nippy, high-energy forward who with a turn of pace and an eye for goal, who could beat the offside trap with diagonal runs from the wing. Anybody come to mind? Nope, me neither.

And while I’m here, farewell Ronaldo. You’ve been great. Perhaps a stint in Saudi Arabia may not be a bad thing after all. Apparently they’re better than Messi over there.
Ved Sen (MUFC)


Thank God for that
Ronaldo gone. Monumental. It’s the end of an error.

Still, nice he’s finally learned how to do things with mutual consent.

Can we talk about other things than Manchester United now, please

What? The Glazers are selling?

Oh for FU*KS sake.
Tim Sutton (Mitro)


How can we celebrate Saudi Arabia win?
Since the Saudi Arabia victory over Argentina I’m genuinely struggling to understand when we’re supposed to follow our moral compass in sport and when we aren’t.

Saudi Arabia have human rights issues that rival Qatar’s, as was discussed at length during their take over of Newcastle United, yet this seems to have all been forgotten in favour of a good old underdog story.

In the last mailbox Jack 28 London was, presumably, so morally opposed to the World Cup he thought about boycotting it. How thankful he must be that the LGBT arresting, women oppressing, Journalist murdering Saudis got one over against the big boys and restored magic to the beautiful game!

I accept there is a distinction between a regime buying a World Cup or football club in a concerted effort to sportswash their image and men from that nation winning an 11 vs 11 game of football. But if people genuinely care about LGBT rights around the world surely journalists can’t castigate the F.A and others for not wearing a one love armband one afternoon and then applaud Saudi Arabia for their victory without mentioning their abuse of LGBT rights the next morning?
Joe, 29, London (Probably just picking on Jack because I wish I was still Joe, 28, London)


F365 and Alex Scott getting the balance right
I read the criticism in the Mailbox both for Alex Scott and F365 itself and understand the accusations of hypocrisy. But… from my perspective I think Alex Scott’s decision to wear the banned and highly seditious “OneLove” armband while pitch side at England’s first game was thoughtful and to be commended. In fact, I would say she has arguably proven that there is perhaps some value in protesting from inside the tent.

As for F365, I would also say you have the balance about right. As a football fan who has chosen NOT to watch a single game or buy any World Cup endorsed products, I am still interested in how the actual games are going. At the same time, as my personal but largely pointless boycott suggests, I also want to read about the global response to the sheer awfulness of the whole stinking corrupt mess. I am grateful to F365 for not letting me down and covering both sides of this farcical tournament.
Carolyn, (FIFA out) South London Gooner


On the cowards of Qatar
To answer the question “Are they all really spineless? The answer is yes. The players, the managers and the respective FAs for doing FA.

And to the statement of “if you have never sacrificed something to stand up for others, maybe think twice before chucking out words like ‘spineless’, I wholeheartedly agree.

So at risk of blowing my own trumpet I’ll use the word spineless as often as I see fit to describe the privileged cowards in Qatar.

Never forget that the standards you walk past are the standards you accept.
Eoin (don’t be those men in the carriage) Ireland


…Every queer person I know has “risked something to protest”, as Mike asks in today’s mailbox.

It’s a f**king yellow card, not tear gas. Straight people coming in here to explain how protests work is just galling.


One Love, one idea
Following the ridiculous situation of the One Love arm band being withdrawn due to a risk of a booking, at some point surely a player is going to take his shirt off following a goal.

Hopefully whichever player that is has the foresight to wear a t-shirt underneath with the One Love emblem on, or even better a t-shirt with a message referencing the 6,500 deaths of migrant workers.

Two birds with one stone regarding the booking and that would be a bigger statement than an armband…
Brian BRFC


Stampy feet and hashtags does nothing
England outlawed slavery in 1833. Well done, jolly good show. One of the first world powers to do so, if not the greatest power at the time.

England legalized homosexuality in 1967, or two less years than I have been alive. Let’s not pretend that England has been at the forefront of equality for hundreds of years. Or a hundred years.

Hashtags and armbands are not going to change centuries of (call it what it is) radical fundamentalism. All they do is make liberals feel good about themselves, so they can say “I waved my finger and made a sad face”.

The Cup is in Qatar. It is what it is. It’s not going to be moved, so all the moaning about how it shouldn’t be there is like saying the sun shouldn’t rise in the East. The Qatari leaders don’t care about hashtags, feelings, equality, or anything else other than more money, of which they have gobs of already.

FIFA are as dirty as a pig’s dinner, and the FA, along with all international football, should (and could) have made their stand long ago and said “we aren’t playing there.” But they didn’t. They all crawled into the money bed and chose to lay there and take it.

So, move on. We know it’s wrong. We know they don’t care, and all the virtue signaling in the world will never change that core fact. You can’t erase centuries of closed thought with stampy feet and hashtags. Remember, it took until 1967 for England to be “ok” with it.
Pete Murcott, Nashville TN


Defending the Middle East’s right to host
This mail has been brewing in my mind for a while, but as a British Arab who feels pride that a Middle Eastern country has the honor of hosting a World Cup and also seeing Saudi win today, I felt it’s time to come out and defend the decision to award Qatar the World Cup.

The reality is, everyone is going to have an opinion as to why a certain country shouldn’t host a World Cup (I’m sure there are no shortage of people who will argue that the USA have done some objectively immoral things in recent history) but I think that this detracts from the point that the World Cup is a unique experience for people of that country/ region and that we should instead celebrate that three of the last four World Cups got awarded to areas of the world that have never got to experience something like this.

The sad reality is that if not in Qatar, then where else in the Middle East or North Africa? Iraq still has a lot of turmoil because of that so-called liberation, Palestine too is a mess (also largely because of the UK’s doing), Syria is still at war and the woke police would be protesting outside of embassies if it was awarded to Saudi.

I think everyone that opposes the World Cup being hosted in Qatar, or Russia, or anywhere else that gets picked next is effectively saying that no one in that country deserves that privilege, and that in my opinion is not fair because people are not an embodiment of its government and everyone deserves that sense of pride. Today there would have been a stadium full of Saudis who would have watched something historic, and I think this is what should be celebrated.
Mo (Still backing Argentina to win the WC)


Yer man Jon is back
To those who responded to my mail the other day, thank you. I appreciate other views on this issue which I feel is definitely more nuanced than a few paragraphs from either of us can summarise. I would like to clarify my point further since, while I admit that taking money from Qatar directly is certainly different from being paid by the BBC, I still maintain that the English pundits, players and companies associated with this World Cup have ultimately betrayed their own message, while offering a frankly belittling set of gestures in return.

First off, this is a sporting event. It is not the same as buying bread from a supermarket and thereby ‘taking part in society’ in such a fundamental way to be compared to some redundant webcomic. We have known it was coming many years in advance. Moreover, every member of that England squad and many of those surrounding it (Gary Lineker for one) are not dependent on this competition to literally put food on the table.

They are in a position of immense privilege that could and should have been leveraged long before now- they are not comparable to minimum wage workers who have little choice but to work the machine since refusal could drag them below no end of financially driven thresholds. I simply cannot accept that the need to partake in this tournament excuses the personal responsibility to uphold the absolute basics of functional existence in this world.

As for the form of protest itself (and for the people who apparently didn’t understand my viewpoint one iota when waxing lyrical about how much they despise usage of terms like virtue signalling, as if I were bleating some right wing dog whistle) I’ve seen it all before.

For years and years me and countless others have watched on as corporations and individuals alike will spread the message of tolerance with one hand while tearing hunks of flesh from the body of poorer nations with the other. While I do not doubt that Scott had good intentions and I do not equate the cynicism or severity of her actions with some human rights abusing sportswear company (or government for that matter) I absolutely do find the whole thing to be a meaningless gesture that does nothing to change the hearts and minds of bigots from a culture so wildly different to our own that a simple armband will likely go unnoticed.

Instead it will appeal to people at home with already well aligned values, sparking off debates like this and raising the profile of a football pundit. Look around and you will find that Scott herself is receiving more attention for her bravery than the message itself. Again I would like to reiterate that I don’t think Scott was doing this for her own benefit and that she is not responsible for how people interpret it.

I have watched friends suffer and die at the hands of the near universally intolerant. I have also watched as the cynical and the devious make use of people like me to leverage their own worth with rainbow flags and moving speeches, many of which have been truly heartfelt, others opportune and self serving; there is an astonishing amount of crossover between those two categories.

Wearing an armband or tweeting your distaste does not make up for the fact that these people have decided, from a position where such choice has been gifted unto them by money and fame, to legitimise Qatar and Russia before them as a country with a culture deserving of tolerance and reward in the form of an almost unparalleled sporting event. For a spectacle as grand as this one, support is, ironic though it may be, binary. It is not comparable to everyday life and the unavoidable hypocrisy that comes with it.

I appreciate that this is a long mail and I hope that I have expressed my feelings on the matter, to be better understood.
Jon, Notts


Offside chat
Now that the technology exists to precisely determine what space an attacker’s body takes up at the exact time the ball is played the offside laws should be changed.

It does not matter whether Martinez’s arm was offside, or that Messi’s torso crossed the line, or his bloody bollocks for that matter. It is where an attacker’s feet are that matter. The feet determine what space a player occupies and how he propels himself around the pitch.

Unless there is clear daylight between both a player’s feet and the offside plane then he should be deemed onside.


Some football fans are lovely
Mike, LFC, London, I have to share a nice story to counter your train harassment story.

Back in the early 2000’s, no clue what game as I went to quite a few that we usually lost but this was an evening Wembley experience.

On getting on the tube after the game with all the other well fuelled England fans I saw some poor lady on the tube with a baby. I recall the look of horror on her face when she realised hundreds of drunks were about to cram into the train and there was nothing she could do.

I started humming a lullaby, da da daaaa, da da daaa…. then the whole carriage joined in ( seriously, they were humming, not turning it into a terrace song). The baby kept sleeping, the mum was so relieved and thanked us all when she got off a few stops later.

The majority of football fans are good people. The minority should be shot.
Jon, Cape Town (formerly of South London – not sure how to type that in a saaf laandan accent)

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