It feels like there are two parallel universes when it comes to the controversies surrounding this World Cup.
For defenders, activists, European teams and especially the seven captains who intended to wear the One Love armband, this is an LGBT and human rights issue they want to continue to talk about. make heard.
For Qatari hosts and viewers who have been here or are watching in the Arab world, which has a large Muslim majority, it is about religion, culture, the norms of the region and above all respect that they do not feel not receive.
Tension seems to be the perpetual undercurrent of the tournament so far and it all plays out here on the biggest stage in the world.
Wednesday, Germany players covered their mouths during the team photo before their World Cup opener against Japan, with manager Hansi Flick saying it was “to convey the message that Fifa is silencing” the teams.
However, the reaction to Germany’s position had fierce and almost unanimously negative reactions in the Arab world.
The Germany-Japan hashtag was trending in Arabic for all the wrong reasons for the German team. Many call their ‘mouth covering’ stance in favor of LGBT rights ‘insulting’ and ‘provocative’, with some calling on Fifa to put more pressure on players.
“You come to us, you respect our religion, our culture, our norms and our laws – otherwise you can put your hands where you want,” said one tweet.
Another said: ‘Hunger, poverty, water shortages and many other global problems and you have singled out that as your cause.’
A message on Facebook, addressed to Arab and Muslim supporters of the Qatar World Cup, read: “If they [German team] stand up for this cause, be proud of your religion and support it too.”
Germany’s gesture is the latest step in a row between football’s governing body Fifa and several European teams which had planned for their captains to wear a OneLove armband during matches to promote diversity and inclusion, until Fifa threatened to do so. give them yellow cards.
This move has been described as “extreme blackmail” by Steffen Simon, Media Director of the German Football Federation.
Germany – which will not face any disciplinary action for the ‘mouth covering’ gesture – said it was “not a matter of making a political statement”, adding: “The rights of the are not negotiable. Denying us the armband is tantamount to denying us a voice. We maintain our position.
On the eve of the World Cup, Fifa President Gianni Infantino accused the Western world of “hypocrisy” and “one-sided moral lesson” in his report on Qatar’s human rights record. men, where same-sex relationships and the promotion of same-sex relationships are criminalized.
This is more than just a football tournament controversy.
For many Arabs, this strikes a chord. Many here in Qatar ask why there wasn’t a similar uproar when Russia hosted the World Cup in 2018 or when China hosted the Olympics in 2008; both countries with their own human rights issues.
When Qatar won the bid to host the tournament, it was seen as an Arab victory. Finally, one of the greatest sporting events in the world took place in a region mainly known for its conflicts.
“It’s not just for Qatar,” a Qatari fan told me as we watched the opening ceremony together. “This is for all Arabs and Muslims.”
Any criticism of the organizers seems to be taken as a judgment on the region as a whole and its ability to legitimately host the world stage, especially when it comes to high-profile events like the World Cup.
But it also appears that Qatar has been taken aback by the level of scrutiny it is under – having invited the world into its own backyard.