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Issue 66: Yann Sommer

‘The World Cup is the sort of common project that otherwise barely exists in modern society.’

Simon Kuper

The World Cup promotes a global indulgence in nostalgia, shrouded in colour, offering the fruits of glory. An experience and event that captivates more people than any other. The competition ties the contemporary to the past, encouraging a sense of unification and togetherness that, whilst it lasts, acts as national nectar. That said, when the 2018 Russia World Cup came around, critics abound protested at Putin’s effective sportswashing tactics and the repeated reports of worker deaths throughout various pre-tournaments construction projects – let alone the outrage that North Korean workers had been used as cheap and disposable labour across the Zenit Arena project – a scandal that Josimar’s Håvard Melnæs named The Slaves of St Petersburg. The year before the Russian World Cup, in 2017, FIFA pledged their Human Rights Policy to “go beyond its responsibility to respect human rights” via various “measures to promote the protection of human rights and positively contribute to their enjoyment.” This pledge was clearly ignored in 2018 and this trend appears to have continued into Qatar 2022. Amnesty International titled the 2022 event a “World Cup of Shame”, exposing the staggering numbers behind construction projects with an estimated 1.7 million migrant workers comprising 90% of the entire Qatari World Cup workforce. Many of these have suffered with underpayment, poor working and living conditions, and passport confiscations. Equally, there have been a collection of LGBTQ+ campaign groups questioning the validity of a World Cup being held in a country where their sense of being is under threat.  Thus, the World Cup not only houses last minute drama, the tournament is a base of global power and influence. It is now well known that Qatari ministers veiled British ministers with gifts that The Observer’s Shanti Das uncovered to be of a value “greater than the amount spent by the 15 other countries whose governments made donations to British MPs combined.” For the sake of brevity, I need not detail the extent to which this World Cup is without the question the most ecologically damaging footballing event of all time. Sport has always been a tranquiliser, a true entertainer, the controller of the crowd. Whilst the variety of issues cloud this World Cup and the previous one, there is scope to celebrate, there are still reasons to unite, perhaps now more so than ever. It is just worth keeping in mind that, regardless of your nations’ performance, there may be a few issues bigger than the beautiful game.

Welcome to Issue 66.

Jai McIntosh