The Bible doesn’t say much about football, but it says a fair amount about wealth, power, corruption, justice and freedom.
Doha, capital of the tiny gulf state of Qatar, is hardly a hotbed of high level football – but Qatar does have money. Lots of it, from its revenues from oil and gas, which puts it into the top ten richest countries. Money talks, as the cliché goes, and it is alleged that some of it – $3.7 million – was paid as a bribe to FIFA for the right to stage the competition in Doha.
Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA when the hosting of the games was awarded to Qatar, now says, 12 years later, that it was a mistake to have done so. He says that their dubious human rights record was not discussed, nor their attitude to the LGBTQ+ community, nor their treatment of migrant workers, only that it would be too hot to host the competition during the Summer.
FIFA officials have tried to tell the 32 teams taking part to stick to playing football and not get “dragged” into ideological or political “battles”, or “hand out moral lessons.” It sounds a little like, “keep religion out of politics.”
10 European football associations, including those of England and Wales, have said that ”human rights are universal and apply everywhere.” The England squad will fly to Qatar on an LGBTQ+ Pride themed jet called Rain Bow with the LGBTQ+ icon Oscar emblazoned on the side. The Danish team will wear “toned down” black kit to protest against Qatar’s human rights record.
It’s a very Old Testament type story, with the old king and his officials repenting too late the consequences of past judgements and being swept aside by a new generation who wish to “do justice and to love kindness,” as the prophet Micah puts it.