It’s the biggest sporting event in the world, so understandably millions of people around the world are talking about it. Not for reasons you might think, though, which begs the question: why celebrities and countries are boycotting the Qatar FIFA World Cup?
In 2022, the FIFA World Cup, which is held every four years, will be hosted by the Arab nation of Qatar. The tournament begins on November 20, 2022, and it’s expected to attract five billion viewers across the globe. Recent discourse isn’t about football at all, but rather controversy happening off the pitch. Qatar is facing mounting criticism for human rights abuses and its treatment of migrant workers, not to mention its stance on homosexuality, which is illegal in Qatar. Qatar is the first Arab nation to host the World Cup and five proposed stadiums for the championship were unveiled back in March 2010, built with cooling technology capable of reducing temperatures within by up to 36 degrees to combat the relentless desert heat outside. The treatment of migrant laborers in constructing these new stadiums has come under scrutiny, which explains why some celebrities and countries are calling for a boycott.
Who is boycotting the Qatar World Cup?
Who is boycotting the Qatar World Cup? Shakira was slated to perform but changed her mind at the last minute. According to Spanish news outlet El Programa de Ana Rosa, host Adriana Dorronsoro said: “It’s been confirmed to me that Shakira will not perform at the opening ceremony, but they won’t say if she will have another role throughout the World Cup.”
Sandra Aladro, another contributor to the Telecinco program, also confirmed the news after speaking to Shakira’s team. They have confirmed that she won’t be performing,” Aladro said. “She was going to be a guest performer, now she will have to send a statement to explain everything.” The Columbian pop megastar has previously performed at three previous World Cup opening ceremonies: in 2006 (Germany), 2010 (South Africa) and 2014 (Brazil).
Dua Lipa was rumored to be performing at the opening ceremony, but she shut down speculation on a series of Instagram stories posts. “There is currently a lot of speculation that I will be performing at the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Qatar,” the British pop star wrote. “I will not be performing and nor have I ever been involved in any negotiation to perform. I will be cheering England on from afar. I look forward to visiting Qatar when it has fulfilled all the human rights pledges it made when it won the right to host the World Cup.” Rod Stewart was also offered an opportunity to perform in the Arab nation, but he turned it down. “I was actually offered a lot of money, over $1m, to play there 15 months ago. I turned it down. It’s not right to go,” he told the Sunday Times.
So what are these human rights violations? An investigation by The Guardian found 6,500 migrant workers had died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup, culminating in $220 billion spent on nation-building. Though the worker deaths were not categorized by occupation or place of work, Nick McGeehan, a director at FairSquare Projects, an advocacy group specializing in labor rights in the Gulf, told The Guardian that “a very significant proportion of the migrant workers who have died since 2011 were only in the country because Qatar won the right to host the World Cup,” he said. In 2019, the newspaper revealed that hundreds of workers had died of heat stress, toiling in potentially fatal temperatures as, during the hottest summer days, mercury can sore above 120 degrees.
Because of this, pressure on football legend David Beckham to speak up has been mounting, as he signed a lucrative, $10 million deal to be a 2022 Qatar World Cup ambassador. “Qatar’s human rights record is troubling, from the country’s longstanding mistreatment of migrant workers to its curbs on free speech and the criminalization of same-sex relations,” Amnesty’s Sacha Deshmukh told the BBC. “It’s not surprising that David Beckham wants to be involved in such a major football event, but we would urge him to learn about the deeply concerning human rights situation in Qatar and be prepared to speak out about it.”
A spokesperson for Beckham told BBC Sport: “David has been visiting Qatar regularly for over a decade and went on to play for [Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain F.C]—so he has seen the passion for football in the country and the long-term commitment that’s been made to hosting the World Cup and delivering a lasting legacy for the region,” they said. “He’s always talked about the power of football as a force for good on many levels. As we reach the one-year-to-go point he will join the wider football community that is coming together for the World Cup 2022 and he’s looking forward to what he thinks will be a great tournament.”
The BBC also quoted a source close to the former Manchester United star, who said that while Beckham believes an Arab nation hosting the World Cup is a great move, he’s aware of its stance on the LGBTQ+ community. “Of course, David wanted to ensure that he was informed about the facts and any concerns that he might have for his gay friends, football supporters and fans,” they said. “Some of the laws and beliefs in the region differ to his own but the Qataris have always said that everyone will be safe and welcome at the World Cup in 2022 and he believes that commitment is sincere and has seen evidence of proactive engagement with the international LBGTQ community by the World Cup organizers.”
British comedian Joe Lycett, who is pansexual, challenged Beckham to withdraw from his deal with Qatar in a viral message via the website benderslikebeckham.com. “You’re the first premiership footballer to do shoots with gay magazines like Attitude, to speak openly about your gay fans, and you married a Spice Girl, which is the gayest thing a human being can do,” Lycett said, addressing his critique directly to the sports star.
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