Protesting for human rights is a good thing, but footballers also have real power. Do they dare to use it, Janne Oivio ponders.
In Qatar the World Cup 2022 to be played has demanded a wild human price long before the Games began. According to expert estimates, the construction work related to the Games has claimed the lives of thousands of migrant workers.
The appalling conditions in Qatar for migrant workers from poor countries are not new news, but the football community will finally and finally have to make its own accounts clear with the matter.
The Games were awarded to the country as early as 2010, and for a long time it was easy to look sideways. Now that the Games are just over a year away and the bloody facts are on the table, it can no longer be dodged as easily.
Players from several different countries have responded under the World Cup qualifiers by wearing t-shirts with human rights slogans.
Perhaps the national federations that have been dancing around the issue for a long time will issue, as the Football Association did in the end, a groin-warm bulletin emphasizing the importance of human rights. The situation in Qatar was deplored.
Pretty good. The next question is this: what now? What next? And most of all: is there a team that would be willing to miss the World Cup altogether?
The effect of less action would likely remain a one-day news mill and it would spawn sometime.
Even the author it is good to remember at this point that this thing is really easy to tap on the keyboard for editing. I have nothing at stake. I don’t have to make any sacrifices, played in Qatar or not (and therefore, for clarity, played, of course).
Unfortunately, the above questions are forced to be asked because national sports federations have gladly pushed the responsibility for ensuring the ethics of action once again for athletes.
Qatar tours, tournaments, sponsorship money and other delicacies have generally been more than good for big clubs like Bayern Munich or Barcelona, as well as for the Football Association in Finland – until the players made their voices heard.
Faceless bureaucrats in federal meetings may, when asked, resent the situation, but few of them dare to pledge and risk sponsor millions or World Cup dreams.
Boards know that the continued growth of football is increasingly being funded with money from the Middle East, Russia or China.
Then it doesn’t always help to ask where or how that money was properly raised. Not at least if you want to pay the bills.
If anything has to happen, it happens at the initiative of the players. Athletes, by their name, are the vitality of sport. Without them, there are no events or activities. If they want to bring about change, they have the power and strength to do so – but change would require sacrifices, which in turn puts at risk everything that athletes have started their sports and dedicated their lives to.
Colin Kaepernick is a model example. Kneeling during the American National Anthem, the Yankee runner knew he was taking a huge risk in an extreme conservative sport. The risk was expensive. He lost his career after the 2016 season.
It had only been a few years since Kaepernick led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl. He was no longer a superstar in 2017, but it’s obvious he still had something to give. A blacklisted player received compensation for his treatment, but even today no club has offered him a decent chance to win a place in the lineup.
Kaepernick is 33 years old. The NFL listed him a year ago on his own website as having already ended his career, although he is still waiting for offers.
They are not coming.
Gaming instead, Kaepernick achieved something bigger. He activates his teammates to fight for minority rights. As a result, the NFL and its clubs have finally launched numerous social programs to support minorities and directly supported development activities with tens of millions of euros.
Since then, e.g. basketball league NBA players. Fortunately, none of them had to sacrifice their careers, but the pattern was the same as what footballers now face in Europe: either the athletes are doing something for a change, or nothing is happening.
Still life is really unfair, and I am by no means saying that it is the duty of athletes in their twenties or thirties to take the world’s injustices to redress. What I say is that if footballers want, they have the power to influence change. It will require drastic sacrifices.
The actions of NBA players have perhaps been the strongest demonstration of the power athletes have when it matters. The whole league literally stopped Jacob Blaken after a fatal tragedy. The tireless pressure from players in recent years has led clubs to have large-scale social programs to improve conditions for minorities. They can read here.
As a league, the NBA knows that purses must be opened and social justice must be acted upon, wanted or not. When the movement is led by the largest stars of the species LeBron of James since, it is difficult to rake against.
The NBA’s teaching is clear. Players are the highlight of the show. We often like to think that institutions that have grown great over the years – clubs or national teams, for example – get people to stadiums and to televisions. In a way, that is true, but the other side of the coin is the most important of the truths.
No national team or club has achieved its position at the top of its sport without players. Institutions are also built on people. All the same, whether we are talking about HJK in Finland or Bayern in Germany, the success, the big players and the cash flow brought by a combination of these has played a huge role in what the big clubs in the countries are.
If the stars are taken away from these, as well as, for example, from the national teams of Germany, France or Brazil, the institution will no longer be so strong. The World Cup is certainly of interest even without the biggest stars in the sport, but is it still the same thing?
If the FIFA World Cup were to decline to the level of its hockey counterpart in terms of player supply, there would be an immediate outcry after the real top tournament – as in hockey when it comes to the Olympic representation of NHL players.
Therefore, I ask again: what are we really willing to sacrifice if the Qatar thing is really a matter of the heart for the players?
The World Cup is a career highlight for the majority of players, a unique opportunity to participate in one of the world’s most significant sporting celebrations. Giving up on one would be absolutely insane. Which federation dares to be the first to say that we would not otherwise go to Qatar even if the venue was won?
This would be a real opportunity for sport to influence the human rights situation in a place where these problems have been bought into hiding. And at the same time, it is quite unreasonable to require athletes to make such a hard sacrifice. All the credit, but t-shirt protests ultimately achieve nothing but a moment’s attention.
But faceless bureaucrats don’t want to leave other options.
Source site www.is.fi