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If we care about football, simply ‘not caring’ about the Qatar World Cup isn’t enough

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by Adam Moynihan

Normally this would be a time of great excitement for fans of the world’s favourite game.

The World Cup is just a matter of days away. At its best, the competition is a festival of football that entertains and enraptures a passionate audience on a global scale. Even here in Ireland, where our team is starved of World Cup appearances, the games attract massive interest.

Sadly, however, it seems like your average fan doesn’t really care about this upcoming instalment. Certainly not to the same extent they cared about instalments past.

On the one hand, I get it. Being apathetic is a normal response to a lot of what has been happening lately and it’s fair enough to feel like you just can’t be bothered getting properly into this particular World Cup.

But I also really think we need to challenge ourselves to go that bit further. To dig a bit deeper into our own hearts and minds. To feel something.

Let’s start at the start. Qatar was chosen as the host nation for the 2022 World Cup following a selection process that was tainted by accusations of bribery and corruption.

Many of the FIFA administrators who oversaw the process – people like Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini - have since been banned from football. Several other executive committee members have faced criminal charges over their conduct while working for the sport's governing body.

It is widely accepted that Qatar, a very small place with summer temperatures that are not conducive to outdoor sports, a place that effectively had no big-tournament infrastructure, was unfairly handed the biggest summer sporting event on Earth. That should make you feel something.

Furthermore, Qatar is a country where LGBTQ fans are not welcome. I recently spoke to a couple of friends from Kerry who have lived in the Middle East (one resided in the UAE and visited Qatar, the other lived in Doha for two years) and neither feel as though Qatar is a suitable host nation. One described the decision to play the World Cup there as “madness”.

What would they say to a gay friend who wanted to travel to the World Cup?

“Openly gay?” the former UAE resident replied. “Forget about it. They’ll be thrown in jail and that’s a fact. There’s going to be massive culture clash.”

A number of horror stories relating to the treatment of gay people in Qatar have come to light recently. These stories should make you feel something.

Qatar also has a very poor record when it comes to racism, which makes something of a mockery of their claims that anti-Qatar World Cup criticism is, itself, racist.

In 2020, a report by the UN highlighted concerns around “structural racial discrimination” against non-nationals, adding that a “de facto caste system based on national origin” exists there.

“European, North American, Australian and Arab nationalities systematically enjoy greater human rights protections than South Asian and sub-Saharan African nationalities,” the report found.

That friend of mine who used to live in Doha was unequivocal in his assessment of labour laws in the country: it amounts to “modern-day slavery”. That should make you feel something.

Meanwhile, you have high-ranking football officials instructing players to “focus on the football”. A letter from the pen of FIFA president Gianni Infantino urged participating teams not to allow football “to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists. At FIFA, we try to respect all opinions and beliefs, without handing out moral lessons to the rest of the world”.

Even by FIFA standards, the rhetoric found in the letter is incredibly stupid and tone deaf. Their attitude should make you feel something.

And then there are the deaths. Last year The Guardian reported that 6,500 migrant workers had died since Qatar had been awarded the World Cup in 2011. (The precise figure of those who have died building the infrastructure needed to host this tournament is unknown.)

6,500. That is, roughly speaking, every man and boy in Killarney. Think about that for a second. Your father. Your brother. Your son. Your best friend. 6,500 lives sacrificed.

That should make you feel something.

If you were to tally up all the players who participated in the qualification process, 204 teams multiplied by around 30 players each, your total would be pretty close to that figure of 6,500. Would we care more if it was the footballers who died instead? That’s a rhetorical question. Of course we would. If even one superstar, someone like Messi for example, lost his life, it would be mourned on a larger scale than what we have witnessed for those migrant workers in Qatar.

Acknowledging that should make you feel something.

We all know that this project amounts to sportswashing for the Qatari government. You might well argue that football has been used as a political tool in the past, from Argentina in 1978 to Russia in 2018. The owners of Manchester City, PSG and Newcastle United are engaging in sportswashing too. As far as a large proportion of soccer fans are concerned, the game sold its soul a long time ago.

This World Cup – everything about it - takes things to a different level, though, and it’s a level that I, personally, am not comfortable with. Soccer was my first love. I’ve played and followed the game for 30 years and like a lot of people I can measure my life in major tournaments.

When I’m old(er) and grey(er) and I look back on my life, Qatar 2022 will go down as a different kind of milestone for me: the first World Cup that I didn’t watch.

Apathy is one response and, as I said, it’s understandable to some extent. Sometimes things get so heavy, the easiest thing to do is to disengage from the bigger issues at hand and focus on the lighter stuff (i.e. the actual football).

But I do believe that if we care about football then simply not caring about this World Cup isn’t good enough. If we’re willing to accept this tournament and play our part and watch the games and pretend it’s all fine, what else are we willing to accept?

Where is the line if it hasn’t already been crossed?

Photo Credit: historyofsoccer.info

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Ladies’ Semi-Final Preview: Armagh stand between Kerry and a third shot at glory

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LGFA All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final

Kerry v Armagh

Saturday 7.15pm

O’Connor Park, Tullamore

Live on TG4

The Kerry ladies are just 60 minutes away from their third All-Ireland final in a row but they will have to bring their ‘A’ game to overcome the challenge of Armagh at O’Connor Park in Offaly later today.

The Kingdom have been installed as competition favourites after beating Meath (and after champions Dublin lost to Galway) in the quarters and they should be in confident form following that victory over the Royals in Tralee a fortnight ago.

However, they are unlikely to have it all their own way against an Armagh side who have beaten them twice already this season, in the league in March and then in the league final in Croke Park in April.

Losing star player Aimee Mackin to an ACL injury in the Ulster final came as a tremendous blow to the Orchard County. Mackin scored 2-6 (2-5 from play) and 1-4 (1-2) from play in the two games against Kerry this year so her teammates will have to make up the difference in her absence.

Kerry, meanwhile, have been buoyed by the return from an ACL injury of Síofra O’Shea, who scored 0-3 off the bench against Meath. The skilful trio of Danielle O’Leary (1-28, 3f), Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh (2-15, 9f) and Emma Dineen (4-5) have accounted for the bulk of the team’s scores this season with Hannah O’Donoghue and team captain Niamh Carmody also capable of finding the target.

Managers Declan Quill and Darragh Long will be hoping that this attacking threat coupled with the teak tough defending of Eilís Lynch, Deirdre Kearney and Aishling O’Connell will be enough to see them over the line. With the dependable Ciara Butler between the sticks, Kerry have kept three clean sheets in their last four games which is a record they would love to improve upon today.

Armagh, who haven’t played in a senior ladies’ football All-Ireland final since 2006, arrive at the semi-final stage on the back of wins over Meath and Mayo. Eve Lavery is their top scorer to date with 0-11 (7f) to her name. Blaithin Mackin, younger sister of Aimee, has chipped in with 1-5.

Kerry v Armagh will be preceded at O’Connor Park by the other All-Ireland semi-final between Galway and Cork. The Rebels last made the final in 2020 while The Tribeswomen are aiming to reach their first decider since 2019. Both counties lost to Dublin in those respective finals.

Galway v Cork starts at 5pm. Both matches will be shown live on TG4.

Kerry team to play Armagh: C Butler; E Lynch, K Cronin, C Murphy; A O’Connell, D Kearney, A Dillane; M O’Connell, A Galvin; N Carmody (captain), D O’Leary, N Ní Chonchúir; H O’Donoghue, E Dineen, L Ní Mhuircheartaigh.

Armagh: A Carr; G Ferguson, C McCambridge (captain), R Mulligan; C Towe, L McConville, D Coleman; N Coleman, C O’Hanlon; E Druse, A McCoy, B Mackin; E Lavery, N Henderson, K Mallon.

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Jordan Lee vows to bounce back as injury ends 2024 Paralympic dream

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Killarney high jumper Jordan Lee is determined to bounce back stronger than ever after announcing his withdrawal from the Paralympic Selection Process due to injury.

The Killarney Valley AC athlete, who represented Ireland at the Tokyo Games in 2021, was hoping to wear the green singlet again in Paris in August/September but he was forced to pull out “due to an injury that had developed over the past couple of weeks”.

“[To say that I’m] absolutely gutted is an understatement considering the season that we’ve just had and being ranked number 6 in the world rankings on the lead-up,” Lee said via Instagram.

“This is sport at the highest level and unfortunately this is an injury that couldn’t turn right in time for Paris which is only a few weeks away.”

The local lad went on to thank Killarney Valley and his coaches Tomás Griffin, Alan Delaney and Shane O’Rourke for their support, as well as his sponsors PTSB, Puma, Toyota, Kellihers Garage and Output Sports.

“To my family and my friends, I’ve always repped that Irish vest with the utmost pride, not just representing myself and my beautiful country, but my amazing family and friends that I have too. I love ye all.

“Wishing my teammates within Paralympics Ireland all the very best in Paris.

“Roll on 2025 for the Europeans. I’ll be back better and ready for vengeance. Believe that.”

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