Chronicle of Philipp Lahm: “The World Cup has no place in Qatar”

“As the tournament director of Euro 2024, I am currently meeting a lot of people from the big base of German football. They are kids in jerseys that I take selfies with, youth coaches who teach their players the rules, presidents of small clubs who have been volunteers for decades. They all love the simplicity of football, know its power in education, appreciate its importance for our community.

But when the conversation turns to Qatar, the tone turns serious. Many are thinking of voluntarily skipping the World Cup for the first time in their lives. In the past, a World Cup was a popular celebration, for children a kind of initiation into football for life. Today, some amateur clubs are thinking of leaving the beer tables and the screen in the basement.

Which makes me realize one thing again: giving the World Cup to Qatar was a mistake. He has no place there.

“In Qatar, FIFA ruined football”

Even the FIFA system is problematic. It is unusual for two tournaments to be awarded simultaneously for the first time. Qatar and Russia won the tender, while the competition was stronger. The Qatar match schedule had to be postponed from summer to winter. The heat of the desert was not considered at first.

The other charges were due to be decided in December 2010. Almost all of FIFA’s twenty-four elected members were subsequently removed, sanctioned or prosecuted; two were already suspended before the election. In Qatar, FIFA has destroyed football, including its credibility as a Western organization and international institution.

Another lesson from Qatar: in the future, human rights must become an indispensable standard in major sporting events. In response to fan criticism and media inquiries, Qatar has certainly made progress in ratifying several international law agreements and introducing a minimum wage. But homosexuals are still criminalized, women do not have the same rights as men, freedom of the press and freedom of expression are restricted.

And the conditions of migrant workers, thanks to which the World Cup is possible, are devastating. Their deaths were accepted and not investigated, their families were not adequately compensated. So say the human rights experts of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. Qatar itself has acknowledged the abuses.

“Football is not a popular amateur sport in Qatar, and girls hardly have a chance to play”

According to Forbes, the World Cup will cost at least $150 billion, about ten times more than the World Cup in Russia in 2018, the most expensive to date. However, in a country the size of Kosovo and with fewer inhabitants than Berlin, there are eight ultramodern, air-conditioned stadiums. No fan culture can take advantage of that. Usually, less than a thousand spectators come to watch matches in the Qatari professional league. Football is not a popular amateur sport in Qatar, and girls have almost no chance to play. This can also be understood as the lack of sustainability of a football tournament.

However, the strategy of hosting the World Cup in a new region is correct. In 2010, it was held for the first time in Africa. Before that, I traveled to South Africa, still a player at the time, to get to know the host country and the circumstances in which I would be playing. A World Cup could also make a positive contribution to football culture in the Middle East, as some countries have footballing traditions there.

If we talk about the Arabic speaking world, it has to do with Morocco and Algeria. Germany played against Morocco in the 1970 World Cup, they lost against Algeria in the 1982 World Cup. Before winning the title in 2014, we had to go to extra time against Algeria in the round of 16, the match in Porto Alegre seemed a long way off. game, as Algerian fans traveled.

“This environment does not interest me as a football fan”

Qatar has never qualified for a World Cup. But this small country won the bid on the first attempt. This year, many fans from around the world had to stop in neighboring countries on their way to and from matches. In stadiums, there will be paid influencers who will create the atmosphere and take care of public relations on social networks.

This environment does not interest me as a football fan. I would only fly to Qatar if my job as tournament director required it. Since this is not the case, I stay at home.

In some countries, teams were asked to boycott the tournament. It is up to everyone to decide for themselves. I think it’s a good thing for Germany to participate in the tournament and I would also be happy if we become world champions. Qatar is an economic partner and energy supplier of the West, Germany maintains diplomatic relations with Qatar, and the decision goes back twelve years.

Everyone should ask themselves if they watch matches on television. I will, the German national team is important. Euro 2024 in Germany depends on his performance. For the tournament to be successful, the team in Qatar must perform better than in the previous two tournaments.

“It is not necessarily contradictory to find the political context of the World Cup questionable and to celebrate”

For the final in Doha, I will also turn on the television. In principle, a World Cup is a big event. In sport, a tournament of nations is more unpredictable, with more teams having a chance of winning the title than the Champions League. Conditions in Qatar, in particular, may favor surprises. The rhythm is different, the World Cup takes place in the middle of the season, the teams have almost no preparation.

It is possible that South America will make a strong comeback. An African country could beat a great football country, or a small European country could reach the final, like Croatia in 2018. And Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo would retire from the world stage. A new star can be born.

It is not necessarily contradictory to find the political context of the World Cup questionable and to celebrate. It is not a betrayal of our values ​​to meet friends for a beer and talk loudly about football, this and that. Another question is whether this World Cup will be exceptional. It’s winter here and human rights are out of the question in the host country.

But it is a human need to come together. The World Cup is also a community experience between like-minded people. In the particular circumstances in which Europe finds itself, it can strengthen unity and stability. »

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