many Catalans and Barça fans do not feel Spanish or even an affinity to Spain THIS WORLD CUP HAS GIVEN PEOPLE EVEN MORE REASON TO IGNORE – OR EVEN ABHOR – IT
It may come as a surprise to non-local readers that the men’s football World Cup being held in Qatar during November and December does not attract the same interest here in Catalonia as in other parts of the world. In places like Brazil,the fervour and passion for this tournament are a sight to behold, and the same can be said of many other traditional footballing nations. But Catalonia is the home of Barça, one of the world’s most famous football clubs, so how can it be that a large proportion of its inhabitants, and football-loving ones to boot, have little interest in the World’s Greatest Sporting Event (a perpetual FIFA claim)?
The answer is simple: many do not feel represented at it, because many Catalans and Barça fans do not feel Spanish or even an affinity with Spain, and in fact I have met many who profess to wanting Spain to fail at the World Cup, even though the squad is and always has been crammed with Barça players.
Now this particular World Cup has given people even more reason to ignore – or even abhor – it, since it is being played against a backdrop of alleged corruption in a country that not only has no footballing tradition, but has also been accused of lacking freedom of speech and tolerance of different orientations – those of the LGBTQ community attending the World Cup were warned not to show any public affection, since this will violate the country’s laws and possibly lead to imprisonment. Women’s rights are also reportedly a taboo subject, with one UK journalist recently given to describing Qatar as having a “vicious, censorious, homicidal, women-hating regime”. The tournament is also being held in the middle of the domestic football season for the first time in its history since, seemingly unknown to the authorities that awarded the tiny gulf nation the tournament back in 2012, it gets pretty hot there in the summer and you can’t expect the world’s star footballers to run around in 40 plus degrees of heat. Although you can apparently expect migrant workers to risk and indeed lose their lives working in that heat, which is what has allegedly been happening since 2012. The horror stories that have emerged regarding the treatment of those herded in to construct the stadia and other infrastructure needed to host the event have been, well precisely that, horrific.
So having said all of that, why would anyone, let alone Catalan football fans with no affinity for any team, want to actually validate this World Cup by either spending a small fortune to attend (imagine the cost of flights, accommodation and tickets for a month-long tournament on the other side of the world for some) or tuning in to watch and thereby grant sponsors and advertisers the attention they paid through the nose for?
The answer of course, lies in human nature and our blind hypocrisy. And that’s what these men in suits have been relying on from the very moment disgraced former president Sepp Blatter – who is banned from participating in FIFA activities until 2027 as a result of a 2015 corruption case – joyously pulled the name Qatar from the envelope some 10 years ago. As soon as your Messis, Neymars, Mbappes and co. start playing out the on-field drama that is football, we will forget about the sordid backstory and focus on the real narrative – who will win the World Cup?!
Now, if I were to write “Come on England!” at this point, I would hope it would be understood to be in jest, though I suspect, given other human character traits I don’t have time to go into here, that by many it wouldn’t be.