Is a major boycott of the World Cup in Qatar really possible?

Fabien Bonnel will still give voice, this Thursday (8:45 p.m.) for France-Austria in the heart of the Irresistibles Français, but he will then start looking for “raclette and fondue companions” to occupy his guaranteed evenings without screen from November 20. However, we are talking about one of the founders (and capo) of the main group of supporters of the Blues (1,600 members) for almost 20 years. After following the adventures of the tricolors in Germany (2006), Brazil (2014) and Russia (2018), this is one of the symbols of this #BoycottQatar2022 which has been rising significantly in France in recent weeks.

“It’s obviously too late to change anything in this competition, says this 38-year-old football enthusiast. But my action is mainly aimed at Fifa, so that societal, environmental and human issues are taken into account afterwards. My only solution to go after my convictions, and have a small role in the future of football, is to turn off my television throughout the World Cup, whatever the course of the Blues. »

Three of his Irrésistibles colleagues have even gone so far as to boycott all qualifying matches for this World Cup in Qatar since March 2021. However, after having organized an awareness meeting with Amnesty International, the group of supporters voted in general assembly against a collective boycott of the association. Each of its members was therefore free to plan a stay in Qatar for the end of autumn. If more than 4,000 French people are expected in Doha in two months, there will only be around a hundred Irresistibles, compared to 650 members for the Russian World Cup four years earlier.

The Irrésistibles Français will be six times less numerous in Qatar than at the previous World Cup in Russia. – FRANCK FIFE / AFP

“Non-negotiable human and planetary issues”

While the France team is playing one of its last two pre-World Cup matches, this Thursday at the Stade de France, how much can this music, which is rising from a major boycott, affect France? ? 20 minutes received 338 testimonies in two days, after its call for contributions on this issue on Tuesday. An important figure for this kind of calls. Among these messages, 90% of our readers, who almost all say they are football fans, say they do not want to take a look at the slightest image of the competition. And this to “be clear with their conscience in the face of this masquerade”. “Since 2010, I have collapsed that the organization of the World Cup has been entrusted to Qatar, slips Agnès (67 years old). Human and planetary issues are non-negotiable. »

Patrick (71) is not at his first major sports competition deliberately zapped: “For similar reasons, I boycotted the Beijing and Sochi Olympics on television. I will therefore do the same for Qatar in the hope that a fall in television audiences will put the football authorities face to face with their moral responsibility, which is overwhelming. Madness, excessiveness, money and the non-respect of fundamental freedoms plague this sport which is no longer the one I loved. And that’s my only way to mean it.” Also critical of the open-air air conditioning system in most of these new stadiums, which is particularly spotty in the midst of global warming news, Léo (31) questions.

Can a few hours of fun justify thousands of deaths and a terrible carbon footprint after the summer we just spent? This World Cup is a social, political and ecological aberration. Fifa now has blood on its hands, I won’t have any on my eyes. »

“Thousands of victims” on the construction sites of the stadiums

Roland (46 years old) launches a track to reconcile with such competition: “If all those who benefit from the financial windfall generated by this event compensated all the victims and those who were not paid for their work, that would be the beginning of a beginning of dignity”. This is the fight waged for many years by Amnesty International. The NGO asks Fifa “at least 440 million dollars for the 2 million migrant workers” on this World Cup in Qatar. The recent mobilization of public opinion could help convince Fifa to act, while its profits are estimated at 6 billion euros thanks to this tournament.

“The German and Dutch federations have publicly supported our approach,” explains Lola Schulmann, advocacy manager at Amnesty International. We can change the legacy of this World Cup by allowing workers to obtain justice. More than 6,500 of them would have died on the construction sites of the World Cup stadiums, according to an article in the Guardian in February 2021, while Amnesty International prefers to speak of “thousands of victims”.

The Lusail stadium will notably host the opening match and the final of the next World Cup.
The Lusail stadium will notably host the opening match and the final of the next World Cup. – Xinhua News Agency / New China / Sipa

The risk of a “big shortfall” for bars?

The NGO, which does not call for a boycott, has just published two polls linked to this World Cup. One shows that out of a panel of 1,018 French adults questioned, 48% do not wish to see any match in the tournament. The other is even more significant, since it reveals that 66% of the 17,477 people questioned (in 15 countries) would like the partner companies and the sponsors of the World Cup to publicly ask Fifa to compensate migrant workers injured during the preparation of this competition. Four major sponsors, Adidas, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Budweiser have also supported reparations for workers. Could the world of advertising consider at its level, in France, a boycott of this event? Media expect a World Cup “almost like the others” in this regard. “People will watch the matches and advertisers will be forced to be part of it”, assures one in a national newspaper, even if two of its partners have cut 100% of their media investments over the period.

Apart from a few exceptions, the bars and restaurants accustomed to broadcasting major football matches do not intend to miss such an event. “There was no debate on the subject in our establishment, assures Laura, manager of the brasserie Le République in Lyon. I would be surprised if many colleagues go to the end of this boycott process as it would represent a big shortfall. A surprising barometer of the rise of a major boycott can be found on the Boycott Qatar 2022 Facebook page. Behind this summer creation, “to raise awareness among friends”, is Alain Baduel, a lawyer in Aix-en-Provence and passionate about football and OM.

An upcoming “Colombo hype”?

All that was needed was a sharing, on September 12, of a letter from Eric Cantona, of which 20 minutes still can’t certify authenticity, only to grow its page from 250 followers to more than 5,000 in three days. He would therefore rebel against this World Cup: “Let France win, lose, nothing to square! In life, there are things much more important than football. Instead, I’ll rewatch all the episodes of ColomboI haven’t seen them for a long time.” This supposed text from the former Manchester United legend has therefore contributed to the recent dimension of #BoycottQatar2022 on social networks. In addition to “Canto”, the actors Vincent Lindon, then Roschdy Zem on Tuesday, both took very different positions on the subject during the show. It’s yours. A new proof that the controversy of this World Cup in Qatar goes far beyond the framework of football.

“It demonstrates people’s growing interest in the subject,” says Alain Baduel. There is an expectation of a different discourse than the simple “It’s too late”. The institutions have been failing on the subject for 12 years, so it’s good to see a truly citizen, apolitical and disinterested movement emerging. “And that is worth to the lawyer improbable requests on a daily basis, such as this wish of an elected official from Aix-en-Provence to really disseminate Colombo in bars in the city. What if Peter Falk supplants Kylian Mbappé and Karim Benzema in the hearts of the French within two months?


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