Qatar in my throat by Jay Stoll

Qatar in my throat


It was midway through 2009 and Cristiano Ronaldo had decided to transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid for what was a world record fee of £80m. This was a body blow for my football club and I. If truth were told, neither of us has really recovered. United aren’t what they were and generally speaking, Cristiano leaving surrendered the last fragment of undiluted optimism about the world that I possessed.

Of course, such hysteria still remains as utterly absurd as it was five years ago. God forgive me, I even decided to utilize the political instrument of choice for the most sycophantic of Western 18 year olds and wrote a Facebook Note about my feelings. Awful.

In this convoluted display of plastic mourning, I guessed at what £80m could buy Man United in the crucial transfer market ahead. Not content to stop there, I proceeded to outline opportunity costs that the deal presented for the world’s poorest. I wanted my friends to know that Cristiano leaving didn’t just appeal to my deep concern for United’s right wing, but also was shaping my left wing political outlook. HIV drugs by the million, malaria nets by the thousand, schools by the dozen, centre midfielders by the few. Infinite injustice to be found in every aspect of this footballing saga.

As one might expect, I look back with embarrassment at the wistful and highly inappropriate conflation of issues. The plight of the world’s poor should not be trivialized as a footnote of a football blog, regardless of where it is published.

So, why this self-indulgent reflection on a Facebook Note of years gone by?

Well, the news this week has been dominated by the beleaguered Qatar 2022 World Cup project, and it reminded me of early written efforts. I can’t help but look back and think that whilst I articulated myself in a manner that was thoroughly dreadful – there is still something to be said for the moral cesspit that football has become.

I have long since accepted that our Western Society values football as an enterprise, and that those with talent should command a certain value, but the story of Qatar should make even the most devout fan shrink in their armchair.

Let us sidestep the alleged voting corruption that has the football world spinning at present; there has been a big enough conversation about that. Let us instead turn to the human rights abuses.

Since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar in December 2010, there have been 717 recorded deaths of Indian migrants. Seven hundred and seventeen people, that’s the equivalent of a small military conflict. Those lucky enough to survive the day of work will wake up the next to feel the consequences of Qatar’s “kafala” laws, whereby employers can ‘buy’ workers and treat them harshly with impunity. We are witnessing the familiar tale of enslavement and corporate murder that is so common along the tapestry of human history.

This time, it so happens to be sponsored by the petro-dollars of the Qatari officials, approved by the crooks at FIFA, and will eventually consented by the apathetic spectators.

Our concern shouldn’t be whether our footballers will be able to hack a Middle Eastern summer, but our countries being represented in the blood soaked enterprise that is Qatar 2022. In a year where we have lost defining voices in the global fight for civil rights, Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela to name but a couple, I am personally desperate to see who will take up the mantle in this narrative.

I’m not holding my breath. At this stage, even another adolescent, poorly written Facebook note would suffice.


Bio: Jay Stoll was the former General Secretary of LSESU and heads up Public Affairs at The Jewish Leadership Council. Twitter handle @jaystoll

Synopsis: Rebellion, at its inception, is often characterised by an absence of activity. This piece responds to ZeitHeist’s theme by stressing the need for a public condemnation of the decision to allow the World Cup to be held in Qatar. Before a ball is kicked, up to 4000 could die to make the tournament happen.


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