The Malta Independent 24 September 2023, Sunday
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TMID Editorial: A strange World Cup

Wednesday, 23 November 2022, 10:13 Last update: about 11 months ago

The World Cup is underway in Qatar.

It is an anomalous event. It’s the first time it is being held during the European autumn – it is usually held in late spring/early summer. It has meant that European football leagues have had to be truncated into two parts, and matches of other competitions – such as domestic leagues and the Champions League – have had to be condensed in a shorter period of time.

Top players such as Benzema, Sane, Reus and Kante have all been ruled out of the World Cup because of late injuries, with many pundits suggesting that having too many important matches scheduled within a brief timeframe is the reason behind so many long-term injuries.

It is also the first time that it is being held in the Middle East, in a country which has no tradition in football. Its hot summer climate was the motive why the World Cup was pushed back from June-July to November-December.

In the weeks running up to the competition, which started last Sunday, we had Sepp Blatter saying that it was a mistake to have given Qatar the opportunity to host the World Cup. Blatter was FIFA President at the time the choice was made.

We had then several other sports personalities speaking up about how wrong it was for FIFA to choose Qatar, for many different reasons. Still, the competition is now being held and every participating nation wants to win it, while the others who were eliminated are ruing their misfortune.

As is usually the case when sport events of this magnitude are taking place, there is bound to be controversy – on the field, and off the field. Thankfully, referees today are being helped by technology and visual reviews to make the most important decisions. Advancement in this respect is avoiding glaring mistakes such as goals not given although the ball crossed the line. Debate will however continue as to whether VAR is intruding too much on the game.

Other issues that have come up are more politically-charged. For example, captains of seven European nations were considering wearing anti-discriminatory armbands to send a message in favour of inclusion and diversity. When it became clear that the wearing of unauthorised armbands would have meant that the captains started the game with a yellow card, the nations involved opted to call off the idea. Still, the message that these nations wanted to put across did go through.

News reports that hundreds of workers died in accidents linked to the building of the stadia for the World Cup have also had their effect on the way people are looking at the competition. Such incidents are unacceptable and people must be held accountable for this disgusting situation. Real and proper investigations must take place to see whether workers were treated well and that conditions were up to standard.

Added to this, the banning of alcohol on the eve of the first game has also been a subject of discussion.

We do hope that FIFA will learn from all of this and in future make better judgments when deciding which countries should be hosting what is, after all, one of the most important sport competitions.

As for what happens on the field of play, let’s just say what is always said in these circumstances – may the best team win.


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