FIFA World Cup: England’s thinly veiled bigotry

Published: December 7, 2010
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England does not have any sort of proprietary claim on football.

The barrage of racism England emits when it comes to football is truly shocking. Less than a year ago, sceptics and fools were united in their disparagement of an African Football World Cup. When quite convincingly proved wrong by a splendidly organised tournament by the South Africans, English bloggers and Tweeple turned their irrational gripes onto vuvuzelas, as if these innocuous horns were the epitome of all that was wrong with foreigners staking their claim on the sport.

On December 2, it was announced that the World Cup 2018 is to be held in Russia, and 2022 in Qatar. England, having bid for 2018, received only 2 votes – one of which was their own.

Perhaps it’s just sour grapes, but this is no justification for the petty, bigoted grievances that are popping up all across the media in response. Various centre-right papers in the UK have flagged concerns about high temperatures, alcohol availability, a lack of infrastructure, and a lack of footballing tradition.

In response (though this is diverging slightly from the real issue), yes Qatar is hot, but has vowed to use solar thermal collectors and photovoltaic panels to keep temperatures on the pitch below 27 degrees Celsius.

Qatar’s economy is thriving, and they have no limitations with regards to building infrastructure. Indeed, they have hosted the Gulf Cup on several occasions and won it twice, and hosted the Asian Games in 2006. Moreover, the Middle East has thriving footballing tradition, particularly among the youth; this is only going to flourish dramatically over the next few years. And as far as alcohol goes, there may be legal restrictions, but this has no bearing on what happens in practice.

But these are petty counterpoints which ignore the fact that all these arguments are based on the premise that football should and must conform to English ideals. Why must football be played in a temperate climate? Many people around the world compete in over 40 degrees Celsius temperatures.

More worrying is the cultural bashing this has induced. Journalist Gabriel Milland Tweeted, “If we qualify for Qatar 2022 we should send a team made up wholly of alcoholic Jews and polytheists,” to which Editor of UK’s Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard added, “And gays.”

If we’re being petty, I’d like to point out that the football industry is probably less tolerant than your average Middle Easterner when it comes to homosexuality.

Prominent PR Max Clifford has oft confessed to advising footballer clients to stay in the closet. Good luck to Pollard finding a team of openly gay footballers, when the only one who dared come out—Justin Fashanu—ultimately committed suicide in 1998. Yes, whilst equality hasn’t quite been achieved in Qatar, the football industry too, is far from perfect.

Not only is the whole argument being dredged up by the English media founded in falsity – the Middle East has rich cultures and traditions of homosexual love – but it is hashed out under the smug presupposition that the West is culturally, morally, politically and socially superior. The assumption that England has achieved a nirvana of tolerance for other religions, and is at a practical and moral pinnacle of alcohol consumption is utterly untrue, and therefore entirely hypocritical.

Herein lies the problem: the unfounded belief that England is simply more advanced and therefore has the right to dictate the terms of the World Cup. The cultural-bashing that is plaguing the blogosphere over this issue is indicative of the underlying bigotry and cultural myths which this nation buys into, as well as, perhaps, a touch of sore-loser syndrome.

Dear England, I am writing to inform you that you do not have any sort of proprietary claim on football.

Yours,
the rest of the world.

Iman Qureshi

Iman Qureshi

A freelance journalist currently based in London. Qureshi recently completed an MSc in postcolonial literature at the University of Edinburgh and tweets @ImanQureshi

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