The labels of the great events are always put ‘after the fact’, but few have had as many ‘a priori’ as this one from Qatar: welcome to the most controversial, strange and artificial World Cup in history. Behind the sports figures (32 teams, 831 players, 296 clubs and 56 leagues represented) there are other human figures (6,500 deaths in the ‘manufacturing’ of the event) making up an unprecedented historical scandal… that will be covered up with balls for almost a month. 64 games, specifically.
In purely soccer, Europe has governed the last four World Championships (Italy in 2006, Spain in 2010, Germany in 2014 and France in 2018) and South America considers that it is time to claim the golden throne. Brazil and Argentina appear in Qatar as the two great favourites, each in their own way. One in that anarchic and beautiful sum of individualities that he always proposed (with a constellation of attackers like he never presented), and the other because he has managed to close cracks and finally form a block around Leo Messi, hungry as never before in his challenge to ‘hunt’ Maradona.
They are the two marked for glory on the other side of the ‘pond’, with the permission of the always competitive Uruguay, one of the iron-jawed teams capable of mortally wounding anyone on a bad afternoon. And given the stagnation of Asian and African football, the Old Continent once again presents the largest number of candidates.
Absent Italy, the pools are still dominated by the eternal usual suspects. France, unfortunately defensive despite so much ‘bomb’ in attack, protects her crown with the same arguments that enthroned her in Russia: muscle, more muscle, a little more muscle… and that Mbappé hooks her. It is the one that would need the least football of all the participants to reach the Cup.
Behind the Frenchmen, or at their level, stands an England whose investment in the Premier is translating into the consecration of the best generation in decades: semifinals in Russia’18, final in Euro’21… At its side is the obstinate Germany, rejuvenated and eternally favourite; a Belgium that finally wants a worthy recognition for the best generation in its history; a young, uncomfortable and shameless Spain, the rival that nobody wants to come across; the Portugal of the decadent stars mixed with the new ones; and the possible surprises of concrete blocks such as Denmark, which was already a semifinalist in the Euro, or Switzerland, which already eliminated France from that same Euro.
Behind the shine of a ball that makes like the hypnotist’s pendulum, Qatar hides a ‘B-side’ full of putrefaction: corruption, economic waste, trampled human rights and thousands of deaths in the construction not only of the stadiums, but of the entire the necessary infrastructure to host a World Cup, such as a new airport, kilometers and kilometers of highways… Nearly 225,000 million invested in creating a winter championship (the first in history) as artificial as the false fans that display on the streets. Brazil’14, for example, did not reach 13,500 million in infrastructure.
Thousands and thousands of workers from Nepal, India or Bangladesh have worked in extreme conditions: more than 42 degrees on average, up to 50 in summer, when the WHO indicates that after 32.5 you have to stop to avoid injuries. NGOs estimated more than 6,500 deaths in February of this year. Adding all this to the fact that some fundamental human rights are not respected in Qatar, that women have fewer rights than men by law or that homosexuality is illegal and the media are not free, we will have to shout “Goal!” stronger than ever to cover up so much misery.