Chronicle of Philipp Lahm: “The World Cup has no place in Qatar”

Home » Chronicle of Philipp Lahm: “The World Cup has no place in Qatar”
Chronicle of Philipp Lahm: “The World Cup has no place in Qatar”

“As tournament director of Euro 2024, I am currently meeting many people from the huge base of German football. They are kids in jerseys I take selfies with, youth coaches who teach their players the rules, presidents of small clubs who have been volunteers for decades. They all love the lightness of football, know its educational power, appreciate its importance for our community.

But when the conversation turns to Qatar, the tone becomes serious. Many are considering voluntarily skipping a World Cup for the first time in their lives. In the past, a World Cup was a popular celebration, for children a kind of initiation to football for life. Today, some amateur clubs think of leaving the beer tables and the screen in the basement.

Which makes me understand once again one thing: giving the World Cup to Qatar was a mistake. She has no place there.

“With Qatar, FIFA has damaged football”

Even FIFA’s procedure was problematic. It was unusual for two tournaments to be awarded simultaneously for the first time. Qatar and Russia won the tender, while the competition was stronger. The match schedule in Qatar had to be postponed from summer to winter. The desert heat had not been taken into account at first.

Other reasons must have been decisive in December 2010. Almost all of the twenty-four elected members of FIFA were subsequently dismissed, sanctioned or prosecuted; two had already been suspended before the election. With Qatar, FIFA has damaged football, including its credibility as a Western organization and international institution.

Another lesson from Qatar: in the future, human rights must become an indispensable criterion at major sporting events. In response to fan criticism and media inquiries, Qatar has certainly made progress in ratifying some international law agreements and introducing the minimum wage. But homosexuals are still criminalized, women do not have the same rights as men, freedom of the press and freedom of expression are restricted.

And the conditions of migrant workers, thanks to which the World Cup is possible, have been devastating. Their deaths have been accepted and not investigated, their families are not adequately compensated. So say the human rights experts of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. Qatar itself has acknowledged abuses.

“Football is not a popular amateur sport in Qatar, and girls have almost no opportunity to play”

According Forbes, the World Cup will cost at least $150 billion, about ten times more than the World Cup in Russia in 2018, the most expensive to date. However, in a country the size of Kosovo and with fewer inhabitants than Berlin, there are eight ultramodern and air-conditioned stadiums. There is no fan culture that could take advantage of that. Often, less than a thousand spectators come to watch matches in the Qatari professional league. Football is not a popular amateur sport in Qatar, and girls have almost no opportunity to play. This can also be understood as the lack of sustainability of a football tournament.

Still, the approach of hosting a World Cup in a new region is the right one. In 2010, it was held for the first time in Africa. Before that, I had traveled to South Africa, still a player at the time, to get to know the host country and the circumstances in which I was going to play. A World Cup could also have made a positive contribution to football culture in the Middle East, as some countries have footballing traditions there.

If we talk about the Arabic-speaking world, this concerns Morocco and Algeria. Germany played against Morocco in the 1970 World Cup, they lost against Algeria in the 1982 World Cup. Before winning the title in 2014, we had to go to extra time against Algeria in round of 16, the match in Porto Alegre looked like an away game, as the Algerian fans had made the trip.

“This atmosphere does not interest me as a football fan”

Qatar has never qualified for a World Cup. Yet this small country won the bid on the first attempt. This year, many fans from all over the world will have to stop over in neighboring countries on their way to and from matches. In the stadiums, there will be paid influencers who will create the atmosphere and take care of public relations on social networks.

This atmosphere does not interest me as a football fan. I would have flown to Qatar only if my job as a tournament director required it. Since this is not the case, I stay at home.

In some countries, teams have been asked to boycott the tournament. It is up to everyone to decide for themselves. I think it’s a good thing for Germany to participate in the tournament and I would also be happy if we become world champions. Qatar is an economic partner and energy supplier of the West, Germany maintains diplomatic relations with Qatar, and the decision goes back twelve years.

Everyone must ask themselves if they watch the matches on television. I will, the German national team is important. Euro 2024 in Germany depends on his performance. For the tournament to be a success, the team must perform better in Qatar than in the previous two tournaments.

“It is not necessarily contradictory to find the political context of the World Cup questionable and to celebrate”

For the final in Doha, I will also turn on the television. In principle, a World Cup is a big event. Sportingly, a tournament of nations is more unpredictable, with more teams having a chance of winning the title than in the Champions League. Conditions in Qatar, in particular, could favor surprises. The rhythm is different, the World Cup takes place in the middle of the season, the teams have almost no preparation.

It is possible that South America will make a strong comeback. Maybe an African country will beat a great footballing nation, or a small European country will reach the final, like Croatia in 2018. And Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will retire from the world stage. A new star could be born.

It is not necessarily contradictory to find the political context of the World Cup questionable and to celebrate. It’s not a betrayal of our values ​​to meet friends over a beer and talk loudly about football and this and that. Another question is whether this World Cup will be exceptional. It is winter here and human rights are not negotiable in the host country.

But it is a human need to come together. A World Cup is also a community experience between like-minded people. In the particular circumstances in which Europe finds itself, it can strengthen solidarity and resilience. »


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