Doha fever dream: Tales from the protest World Cup

AuthorGavin Cummiskey
Published date18 December 2022
Publication titleIrish Times: Web Edition Articles (Dublin, Ireland)
At this efficient World Cup, Mbappé, Messi and Morocco drowned out external noise. Artificial sounds inside eight death stadiums ceased whenever the three Ms began to play

Stories to be reshaped and retold; Messi torturing Joško Gvardiol, Sofyan Amrabat slide-tackling Mbappé, Moroccan migrants beating the Europeans.

World Cup moments to exist beside Pelé, Maradona, Zidane.

The mask slips clean off when the World Cup pauses for two days after the group stages.

"Death is a natural part of life, whether it is at work, whether it is in your sleep," said Qatar's chief executive Nasser Al-Khater, when asked about 'Alex,' a Filipino national who died while working at the Sealine resort, Saudi Arabia's training base in Mesaieed.

So valued he is mononym. Within 24 hours the family of Abdullah Ibhais accused the Qatar authorities of torturing the father of two.

"Abdullah was trying to showcase Qatar in its best light, to own up to its mistakes, and to do right by them and all the migrant workers who have suffered as a result," said the Jordanian family of a whistleblower who worked inside Qatar's World Cup Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, until sentenced to three years in jail for bribery and misuse of funds. "Fifa is complicit in Abdullah's imprisonment and Fifa's silence is tearing apart our family."

Qatar denies the claim that Ibhais was tortured, insisting he was convicted on "an abundance of strong and credible evidence". Besides a retracted confession, none of this evidence has been released into the public domain.

Four migrant workers perished during this World Cup, which is one more than the Qataris initially claimed perished in the building of eight stadiums over 12 years of construction.

Or, as Amnesty International insists, 12 years of slavery.

Tuesday, November 8th

A shaky start. World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman informs German television that homosexuality is "damage in the mind".

The interview is cut short.

"Everyone is welcome in Qatar," insists the World Cup Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, "but we are a conservative country and any public display of affection, regardless of orientation, is frowned upon. We simply ask for people to respect our culture."

Argentinians and Brazilians, the British, all Europeans, Asians, Australians and Saudi Arabians refuse to respect the Qatari culture. Not for one second, not in Souq Waqif, not at games.

This was a World Cup of contradictions. Grotesque wealth propped upon abject poverty.

One of the cruelest aspects of the tournament was access. The country that owns Al Jazeera and BeIN Sport blocked its lowest earners from sitting at home to watch the tournament. It cost $220 to stream the World Cup. Free to air BeIN Arabic teased matches, showing kick-offs before flashing back to studio.

The Uber drivers has three separate apps to see games as they zipped from Corniche to West Bay. Many only became taxi men for the month as building sites and universities were shuttered. Same goes for the children of Doha, denied formal education while the World Cup played out on subscription TV.

Kids could wander into Fanzones, but 10pm kick-offs saw off most, but not the Moroccans who wheeled babies into Souqs and squares. The North Africans and Saudis made this an Arab World Cup, crossing the land border in their droves.

Saturday, November 19th

Gianni Infantino dog whistles. "Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel a migrant worker."

Monica Marks, professor of Middle East politics at NYU Abu Dhabi, offers supposition around Infantino's true intention.

Infantino's spiel showcases multiple rhetorical tricks of what we might term the "deploying anti-Orientalism as a cudgel to squash substantive critiques of power" trade. I grew very familiar w/ these in Turkey (from current AKP gov) & in Tunisia (from Kais Saied & his defenders).

" Monica Marks (@MonicaLMarks) November 24, 2022

"Infantino's spiel showcases multiple...

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