Quoted daily: BREAD AND GAMES

“Bread and games”: this phrase is a translation of the expression Panem et circenses, literally “bread and circus games” coined in ancient Rome. This speech denounced the fact that the Romans were mainly concerned with their stomachs and their leisure, because of the distribution of bread and the arrangement of circus games by the emperors to attract the good of the people. Why revive the expression? Because you can’t help but think about it when you look at what happened around Doha in QATAR on the occasion of the 2022 football world cup this year.

Indeed, how many organizers, especially FIFA, participating countries, players and supporters, close their eyes and ears to the political and ethical problems raised by this World Cup? As in ancient Rome, can we not say about the football fans who are so numerous on our planet that they are, in a way, willing victims of the powers that exploit everyone’s tendency to be satisfied with food and leisure unconcerned. about the important challenges and issues of today?

It is true that in ancient times bread was distributed to the citizens in addition to organizing circus games. We certainly don’t do it directly now, but what about supporters who are subsidized to attend matches? Should we accept money from any hand in the name of love of sport? Indeed, QATAR, so generous for the supporters who wish to attend and attend the matches, is it not for the workers who have suffered so much for the construction of the infrastructure needed for the organization of the World Cup? Right now, we don’t have reliable numbers, but we do know that hundreds and maybe thousands die because of inhumane working conditions (unlimited hours, temperatures approaching 50° on construction sites, lack of of water, etc.) to build stadiums, roads and luxury hotels, an airport, and even an island outside of Doha. Of the 156 billion euros that the emirate would have invested, is it not enough to improve the living conditions of the workers? But above all, haven’t we chosen to use the money to silence potential critics?

We can say that we, in Africa, are well placed to know the role that money plays as a means of blackmail on the part of the federations and political authorities as well as the players.

To continue, as the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP 27) ended on November 20, 2022, the very opening day of this World Cup, when we debated with enthusiasm for the future of the planet and the risks. of global warming, have we mentioned the carbon footprint of this great mass of world football?

Indeed, isn’t there much to be said for the energy-intensive air conditioning systems used in open-air stadiums, in addition to the carbon footprint of building the infrastructure, thousands of air flights? Everyone knows this, but what we don’t know, what we talk about the least, is that the population of Qatar is among the victims of global warming. Thus, according to a recent report by the Greenpeace International research laboratory and the Greenpeace Middle East and North Africa (MENA) office, “Living on the Edge”, this region of the world is facing rising temperatures, water scarcity and lack of food security, the direct consequences of climate change. “The MENA region, the report says, is warming almost twice as fast as the global average and is particularly vulnerable to the effects and impacts of climate change, including severe water scarcity.”

The Qataris are proud of organizing the World Cup in their country, do they know it when they are shown above all the luxury hotels, the great sports facilities, the communication routes and the festive events?

However, make no mistake about it, our point of view is not to advocate, for example, the boycott of sporting events when for hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of our planet, sport and especially football is one of the few sources of joy It would be as pointless as the act of environmental activists who destroy works of art in museums in the name of their fight.

No, what we want is for citizens to be aware of what economic and political powers can do to sport: try to divert citizens’ attention from what is important. Sport is important and always will be, but we don’t need to make people believe that it is an area protected from political debate. Isn’t Russia’s exclusion from the World Cup because of the war in Ukraine an illustration of politics in sport? Politics invites itself into sport and into stadiums.

How the exploits of the African-American, Jesse OWENS in the 1936 Olympic Games (four gold medals), destroyed the demonstration of the superiority of “Aryan” athletes over other “races” that wanted Hitler we are to believe. , in the same way, the silence of the Iranian footballers during the presentation of their national anthem tells as the fight of their countrymen for Human Rights on Iranian soil.

Citizens can share in their country’s sporting exploits (or setbacks), but winning the World Cup will in no way erase a regime that promotes inequality or discrimination. These inequalities manifest themselves even at the level of sport. It explains the development of disability sport with the aim of combating the marginalization of people with disabilities in the field of sports. And isn’t it time for female athletes to be valued and paid more than men?

Why, people of African origin, in Europe as in the United States, can only come out of the shadows if they achieve exploits in the field of sports? Why were African players forced to emigrate? Why racist insults in stadiums in Europe? There are many questions that need to be answered and must be addressed in an important debate on the relationship between politics and sport.

Sport should be an opportunity to ask fundamental questions about living together: from different communities in the same country to diversity on a planetary level. Sport, as a human activity, cannot escape the political dimension of people. Sport, like the economy, is a matter of politics and they should be asked what they contribute to finding a good life together.

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Lome, December 2, 202

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