Who can we support at the World Cup? And what if Harry Kane was gay?

A confused fan at the World Cup Credit: Alamy
A confused fan at the World Cup Credit: Alamy

The big World Cup questions continue to be asked in the big World Cup mailbox. Plus, some added Ronaldo.

Whether you are watching or not, mail us at theeditor@football365.com

 

Who can we support at the World Cup?
I had similar thoughts to Joe in observing the reaction to Saudi Arabia’s win over Argentina. There was a certain amount of glee in seeing this historic upset. A puzzling reaction to a country who have a much worse human rights record than Qatar,

It all adds into the conversation of what is and is not ok. Don’t like Qatar? Understandable. LGBT rights, women’s rights and treatment of migrant workers. Many people have said they would never visit Qatar or, for example, Dubai, because of their record. But where can you visit? Who can you support? And where do you draw the line?

Take this World Cup. Now, you probably won’t be supporting Iran or Saudi Arabia for obvious reasons. But maybe you’d like to see one of the African nations do well? Cameroon or Morocco? Homosexuality is illegal in both. As it is in Senegal, Ghana and Tunisia. So please don’t cheer for them.

Remember the Jamaican World Cup team in 1998? Everyone’s favorite right? But why?.It is illegal there too. As it is in holiday destinations such as Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Kenya, Maldives, Mauritius, Singapore, Tanzania, Sri Lanka and many others.

OK, but what about the treatment of women? Well, Cameroon, Tunisia, Ghana and Senegal all rank below Qatar in a ranking of equality for men and women. So please, do not support them.

And what of human rights in general? Well I hope you’ve never cheered on (or visited) Egypt. They come in 5th from bottom, behind Iran and Somalia in the Human Freedom Index. Previous, and current, World Cup teams such as Angola, Turkey, Cameroon and Algeria all come below Qatar on this list.

To add a final thought to this email, it is hugely important to separate the people from the regime. On a personal level, I love Iran. I visited there 12 years ago and found it to be the friendliest, most welcoming country I’d ever been to. However, while there, I was then involved in a major car accident. I lost a friend and nearly died. I literally owe my life to the people of Iran. I was cared for wonderfully and wouldn’t fault a single person I met there. Yet, the regime is cruel, horrible and oppressive. The people are not.

Some people will call this email ‘whataboutery’. It isn’t. Whataboutery is where you defend one thing by saying ‘what about’ to something else. I’m not defending Qatar. What I am saying is that you can’t have it both ways. You can’t criticise footballers for playing in Qatar then go and visit the pyramids. You can’t hope for Qatar to be thrashed in every game because of their human rights record, then cheer on plucky old Cameroon (or Saudi Arabia for that matter). The World is complex and it deserves more nuanced discussion thean we’re often seeing about this World Cup.
Mike, LFC, London

 

What could Qatar have done differently?
So the Qatari organisers are confused about why did they bother to host the tournament when they have received so much criticism. Let’s unpack.

I’m going to try to be fair so I’ll not go on about how they won it in the first place since it’s well known the last few have been won by the very same means, that’s on FIFA really.

1. Migrant workers – there are so many mistakes in this area. One of the richest nations on earth made the conscious choice to ship in cheap migrant labour, pay them very very little, give them truly concentration camp style living conditions and have so little regard for their welfare that almost half of them died while building the stadiums. They have made no acknowledgement of this as a mistake or apologised for it.

They could have chosen to treat the workers well, pay them the type of salary which still would have been life changing for them but been peanuts for their employers and also given them good living conditions with running water and sanitation and then so many would not have died from exhaustion, poor nutrition and dehydration. All avoidable…all conscious and active choices by the Qatari.

2. Alcohol – the problem isn’t the banning of alcohol. The problem was the bait and switch. They waited until everyone had bought match tickets, booked hotels and flights before making this announcement. Tricking fans into paying for something they may not have had they known in advance. This is actually an easy and cheap fix – refund fans. Problem solved.

3. LGBT stuff – “our country our rules” fair enough but then state well in advance – gays not welcome and be honest about it. Don’t pretend it’s not an issue and then once all the people have arrived tell them sorry but you’re not welcome, well you are but your life choices aren’t. To counter this I’d say that in any first world country we are expected to welcome people from other cultures, lifestyles and religions and respect all those things and while some people don’t our laws certainly do. Our laws protect people of other cultures and lifestyles – Qatari ones don’t. How would Qataris react if we suddenly banned Islam? Or Qatari people? Not well I imagine and they would be right to complain.

Finally I know some people will say that since we are in Qatari land we should respect their laws, but their laws directly oppress and imprison people for simple life choices. I can’t respect laws which do that, most of us can’t. Did the Qataris honestly believe everyone would just ignore all these things? If they did they have about as much naiveté as they do money. The rest of the world can’t be told to be quiet under threat of imprisonment and death like Qatari people. The World Cup should never have been held here, I don’t think it should have been held in Russia, South Africa or Brasil either for similar (though less pronounced) reasons.

If I were in charge of FIFA I’d make it very simple, you demonstrate the infrastructure is already there. Not a promise to quickly rush and build it, it should be there already. You demonstrate that, even if only for the tournament, you align your laws to protect all groups not just the ones who believe your particular book of fiction.

You make sure it’s an event which is safe and welcoming to everyone.

Those things are not hard and most countries do this already. If you’re not willing to do it, you’re not ready to host an international tournament. Perhaps an Islam only tournament would be more preferable.

You can’t piggy back off footballs international appeal while simultaneously doing horrible shit. I genuinely feel bad for the tens of thousands of workers who lost their lives. Nobody will remember them. Nobody will gain compensation for their kids and wives who are now without father’s and husbands. Thousands of families wrecked purely because one of the riches nations on earth wanted to cut some costs.

FIFA are partially culpable for this too. Awarding Qatar the World Cup so soon incentivised the use of migrant slave labour as it did in South Africa and Brasil. Had they stated the world cup would only go to countries who already have infrastructure those people wouldn’t be dead now.
Lee

 

It’s not ‘just a booking’
Regarding the debate around the OneLove armband, I personally agree with the general consensus that Kane, Bale, Van Dijk and the other captains should have worn the armband if they wanted to.

However, to everyone calling them spineless for caving in over ‘just a booking’, is that all it is? Happy to be corrected if I’m wrong, but the booking would be for non-standard kit, right? If that is the case, Kane would get booked for wearing it every game he wore it. So he is booked for it against Iran and again against USA. So he’s suspended for the Wales game. Trippier then wears it and gets booked for the game against Wales.

Kane plays two matches where he is booked before a ball is kicked and has to be careful for the following 90 (or 100+) minutes or risk further punishment. Trippier starts a game already booked and if he’s picked up a booking in the previous 2 games, he misses the first knockout game.

Getting booked means players have to change their approach, sometimes only slightly, sometimes quite a lot, or they risk getting a second yellow. Is Kane going to play at 100% for 2 games knowing one mistakes, one mis-timed challenge and he goes for an early bath? At a World Cup, the absolute pinnacle of his chosen profession? I doubt it, and so England’s performance suffers as a result.

If I am correct in my assumptions, then lay off the players. They have absolutely earned the right to play on the biggest stage in world football and they have also absolutely earned the right to reduce or remove any risk they may miss out on. It’s not Kane’s fault. It’s not even Southgate’s fault. The blame lies with the FA who wouldn’t back the players, and with FIFA for….well….everything.

If I am mistaken and it would just be 1 booking for the first time they wore it and then no further sanctions/punishments, then blame Kane, Bale et al as it is a stand I believe they should take. I would still understand why they chose not to though.

One booking or one booking per game, there is a difference.
Clive (Lfc)

 

On Alex Scott and, inevitably, Muslim grooming gangs
Regarding Qatar, armbands, the BBC etc., I have a few thoughts.

Those saying that Alex Scott isn’t hypocritical for being there are overlooking (I feel) a few factors.

Firstly, she doesn’t need to be in Qatar. But not just her – the majority of the BBC staff in Qatar don’t actually need to be there. It would have made a strong statement if they had stayed at home and presented the tournament from a studio in Manchester. This is especially hypocritical given their feature on this World Cup’s carbon footprint last night. Let’s criticize another country for using too much carbon having flown there ourselves en masse (most likely in business class).

It’s not like there isn’t even a fairly recent precedent for presenting from the UK. In 2008, when England failed to qualify for the Euros, ITV decided it simply wasn’t commercially viable to incur the expense of sending everyone to Austria and Switzerland. And it is unlikely to have made much difference. Talking about what formation Spain will play, or describing what is happening on a replay doesn’t require you to be in a stadium.

Alex Scott could’ve still worn an armband whilst presenting, but she wouldn’t have had to have stood in a country that the whole MOTD team seem to want to criticize at every chance, even whilst happily staying in expensive hotels and living it up at our expense (and if you want to talk about oppressive regimes, how about one which imprisons anyone who fancies watching Netflix without first paying Gary’s very large salary…)

It is also reasonable to point out that Scott has previously posted on social media whilst holidaying in Dubai amongst other places. She didn’t seem to mind strict rules on homosexuality or women’s rights then, but now a camera is on her, it is a different story. And this is one of the things with this kind of ‘virtue signalling’ (even if I dislike that phrase), the main person who benefitted from Alex Scott wearing an armband was most likely to be Alex Scott. And backed up by the protection that any criticism can be dismissed as racism, sexism and homophobia.

But for me, the main issue is one of consistency. If the BBC believe that hosting a sporting event should mean controversial issue being raised, then that is great. I look forward to the World Snooker Championships being prefaced by an in-depth investigation into muslim grooming gangs in South Yorkshire, and how they were ignored and even facilitated by local MPs, council workers and the police. But somehow I doubt it will happen.

The BBC should be a broad church, representing all those who fund it. But somehow it does seem to be overly full of people who think the plight of gays in Qatar are more worthy of discussion than the widespread abuse of young, working class, white girls in the UK.

I suspect this is what annoys people – the selectiveness of the outrage. Some of us just want to enjoy the football without being preached to by a group of millionaires being paid to watch matches. If it so awful being there, I’m sure there are plenty of people in the UK who would happily swap!
Mike

 

What ifs
Amid all the discussion of what players can be reasonably expected to do to protest such an important tournament and milestone in their careers, I began to wonder, what would we expect of the the FA and Harry Kane if it was illegal to be black in Qatar? Or if it wasn’t illegal, but Qatar had many segregationist and racist laws that discriminated against black people? And the Qatari authorities said they wouldn’t maybe enforce them during the World Cup as long as black people toned down ‘blackness’ in public.

Would England participate? Would Harry Kane play even if the FA chose to go ahead? If the answer is no, isn’t that an implicit statement that racism is unacceptable but homophobia is not that bad. Isnt that a form of homophobia itself?

Alternatively, if Harry Kane was openly gay, would England play this tournament? Would no one on the team be willing to take a yellow card for him?
Amro, Irish Gooner (Proud of Ireland’s valiant protest against this World Cup and basically all tournament football)

 

Ronaldo at Arsenal? No chance, no way
I cannot actually think of a club that’s less likely to engage Ronaldo’s services than Arsenal.

Why would we offload Auba and Ozil due to their refusal to toe the line to hire the King Of ‘I’ll do what I want’?

Not happening.

Also, Carolyn, if it makes you feel any better, I’m not watching this World Cup either. It’s been tough – especially with Saka, Rambo and Benny Blanco in the England squad – but I haven’t folded yet.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London

 

Spankers don’t usually win
No issue with England winning 6-2 in a game they would normally struggle in, it’s just a bad omen. There’s always at least one spanking in a World Cup group stage (England 6-1 Panama in 2018; Netherlands 5-1 Spain in 2014; Portugal 7-0 North Korea in 2010; Argentina 6-0 Serbia & Montenegro in 2006; Germany 8-0 Saudi Arabia in 2002; Netherlands 5-0 South Korea, Argentina 5-0 Jamaica, and Spain 6-1 Bulgaria in 1998) and generally none of those teams get remotely close to winning, with the arrogance to bash a lesser team firmly planting a curse.

This goes all the way back to when Hungary had the impudence to thrash West Germany 8-3 in 1954 before playing them again in the final in a made-for-cinema victory by West Germany after going 2-0 down. Much better to do your spankings in the knockout stages, as Germany have mastered, with a 6-1 semi-final thrashing of Austria in that same 1954 tournament, while Hungary could only manage a pathetic extra time win – over plucky Uruguay who definitely hadn’t done anything of note around that time – in their semi-final. Of course Germany recently revived this winning strategy in 2014.
Alex (can my tongue really be in cheek when my football watching habits are borne out of superstition)

 

England v France though
Uff, imagine a quarter-final without the handbrakes on . England and France carving each other’s defenses apart again and again and again . A four -four draw after 75 minutes. What a spectacle that could be , won’t be , but could be . Not sure Walker could shackle Mbappe but am starting to see that Jude is more crucial than even Kane .

Blimey ! That quarter final ! Mouthwatering .
Peter, Andalucia

 

Pronunciation, Jon
Surely I’m not the only one who read the headline of “Pas de Benzema…” and finished off the rest of the headline singing in my head “on de left hand side”
Jon, Cape Town (ok, probably just me then)

 

Is Giroud the most clinical striker?
I posed this question as far back as 2015 when he was bagging in the goals for Arsenal.

The answer is of course no, but what a wonderfully underrated striker he is.

I got a lot of abuse when I asked this question in 2015, since then he’s gone on to win multiple FA cups, the Champions League, the Europa League, Serie A, the World Cup and of course become Frances all-time top scorer.

He was my pick for golden boot winner before the tournament started which people also laughed at.

Anyway, can we all just take a moment to admire the great man.

And while I’m here you may remember my emotive rant on Monday about the overaction and negativity to Qatar and fake news regarding how many people died building the stadia in Qatar. I noted D*cky eloquent response which has changed my opinion on elements however D*cky is completely wrong on the assessment that 6500 migrant workers died in Qatar, as I said it’s 6500 nationals from South Asian countries including babies and the elderly, but don’t take my word for it here is the response from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) regarding the Guardian article: “6,500 relates to the overall number of South Asian nationals who’ve died in Qatar over a 10-year period. It doesn’t distinguish between whether these are work-related deaths or non-work-related deaths. In fact, these deaths include people who are not economically active, people under the age of 18, students, spouses, people over the age of 60, et cetera.”

But anyway, people have got so used to this false idea that thousands of people died building these stadiums that it does not matter what evidence you prove to the contrary they will just go on and on about these thousands of people that died building stadiums. A single death is a tragedy, but I’ve seen no evidence that more people died building these stadiums in Qatar than died building stadium in Russia, Brazil, South Africa or anywhere else in the world.

Each to their own.
Paul K, London

 

The Mailbox is not fun anymore
Do you remember when you used to come to the mailbox for fun and laughter, no neither do I, it’s been that long since I used to look forward to my half hour lunch break, get food, get a brew, settle in to F365 mailbox for 30 mins of laugh out loud mails, top 10’s, and name the players, squad’s etc.

I surely can’t be the only one who doesn’t want to read about the stats, the Xg, the pathetic who’s better than who, we don’t F$%@EN care, I suggest we have 2 mailboxes one for genuine football fans who care about the game, and one for the miserable bastards that just wants to get up people’s noses and tell us all how anally retentive they are about how they know how many expected corners there are.

Bring back the fun please.
Dave, LFC, (this used to be my playground)

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