It has been a revealing couple of weeks as football fans around the world find their outrage at whatever they find outrageous about either FIFA or Qatar. Even factoring in the Covid-19 pandemic, I don’t know what they have been doing with themselves these past six years. Considering their surprise at basic information, I don’t even know if they qualify to be called “fanatics,” which is where the term “fan” came from in the first place.
I have a casual awareness of football and even I had plenty of time to be horrified when FIFA awarded the World Cup to Qatar. For residents of the Swahili Coast, Arabia is not some distant or exotic land. We wake up to the sound of the Muezzin, we eat biryani on Fridays, we have pictures of ourselves or friends on pilgrimage. Edward Said’s Orientalism is a good book but it hits different here in the land of Quiloa slave forts and dhows. Before European colonialism, the Middle East was the Metropole for many and we’re more likely to aspire to visiting Dubai than London, Paris, certainly Berlin or Lisbon.
We think men look well in robes, we still drink our street kahawa strong and black, we know what the term abeed means and how the Afrikaners came by their slur “kaffir.”
As a feminist who likes to read up on geography from time to time, I was curious about the overall logistics of it all. The solution has been quite elegant: We get an end-of-year football festival and a polite request that people “behave respectfully.” Women are allowed to attend games. There’s even a stadium that was clearly designed by a Georgia O’Keefe fan: Thank you, Qatar, for putting a smirk on our faces. It only cost a few thousand dead migrant workers in a slave economy to make it happen.
Urban hellscape housing
I figured folks would know that this World Block Party was at the house of the weird rich kid with strange interdictions and age-inappropriate toys. Or they would find out when they bought their tickets. I lol’ed at the containers transformed into science fiction urban hellscape housing for guests. I have enjoyed the brouhaha over the term “inclusion,” which has really focused mainly on LGBTQI+ issues and not much else.
I don’t know what Qatar plans to do with all the alcohol it is going to confiscate but I smell an opportunity for a black market in cheap booze, which means it probably already exists. Mr Infantile’s speech telling us he felt like every kind of oppressed demographic while trying to address difficult questions on the Inclusion Issue was the turd in the punchbowl that highlighted the cringe factor. It is only the first week and I am at peak entertainment.
Yes, this World Cup does taste a bit “off.” Argentina lost to Saudi Arabia, confirming that we are in the Dark Timeline. But this is who we all are right now: A bit “off,” exhausted, keen to ignore the chronic pain of humanity for a month’s dose of Games. We need respite. The world will still be broken when we get back to work in January. Qatar perhaps especially so.