A few days before the opening of the Football World Cup, on November 20, in the Al-Khor stadium, in Qatar, a feeling of unease is spreading to many European countries, in particular France. In the media and on social networks, calls for a boycott have never been so numerous and the debate swells on whether or not to watch the competition.
At issue: the working conditions inflicted on the workers who built the tournament infrastructure. Between the derisory salaries and the conditions of survival – undernourishment, lack of care, excessive work rate – the results are terrible. An investigation by Britain’s The Guardian newspaper reports nearly 6,500 foreign workers dead, an unprecedented number that establishes its organization as the deadliest in history. Added to this is the competition’s carbon bill with eight air-conditioned stadiums, seven of which are open-air, planes that will serve as shuttles to bring the supporters, insane water consumption to maintain the lawns in the middle of the desert, but also the treatment of women and LGBT + people and suspicions of vote buying, in 2010, during the vote of the International Football Federation (FIFA).
A few days before kick-off, it’s not time to party. Most cities in the country have given up on any large-scale broadcasting and many football fans are wondering what attitude to adopt: should we boycott for “Send a message” or go to Qatar for “see for yourself” ? This weekend, several groups of supporters have decided, displaying in stadiums, in France and Germany, their position against Qatar, with banners in support. When on the side of the teams, there too, the World Cup has not finished generating tensions and debate.
Thus, the players of Denmark had announced to wear a flocked training shirt with the inscription “Human rights for all” (human rights for all). But FIFA (which organizes the World Cup) refused this request. The German players landed in Doha yesterday in a plane repainted for the occasion. On the fuselage, one could read the inscription “Diversity wins” (diversity wins). The days of the Netherlands and England have indicated that they will go on Thursday to meet the migrant workers who participated in the organization of this World Cup. The Blues have also decided to do “Something” to defend human rights explained the captain of the France team, before flying to Qatar.
Nevertheless, despite the current media and citizen pressure, no selection has given up on the World Cup to protest against the non-respect of human rights in Qatar. No more boycott on the side of the Elysée. The President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron has made it known that he will travel to Qatar if the Blues reach the final or the semi-finals. Four years ago, during the World Cup in Russia, the Head of State had conditioned his arrival on the same condition.
Behind this moment of tension in France, however, there are fifty years of history shared between France and Qatar: gas contracts, defense agreement, sale of weapons, real estate investments, takeover of PSG and entry into the capital of the jewels of the CAC 40 like Vinci, Total, Suez or Airbus. France is the second European country in which Qatar invests the most, tied with Germany and behind the United Kingdom.
So should we boycott the FIFA World Cup? Why is Qatar already a critics champion? What are the economic ties between France and Qatar? What is the state of diplomatic relations between Paris and Doha?
– Pascal Boniface, director of IRIS, Institute of International and Strategic Relations and author of “Three minutes to understand the World Cup”
– Agnès Levallois, consultant specializing in the Middle East and senior researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS)
– Alfred De Montesquiou, journalist, director and author of the documentary “Qatar: in the land of a thousand and one tricks”