Column | FIFA’s yellow card shows Europe’s decline in power

Bracelet or pin? Sports Minister Conny Helder (VVD) had to choose which OneLove sign she would wear on the stand of honor in Holland-Qatar, possibly near the Emir of Qatar and FIFA boss Gianni Infantino. Proclaim our principles with a bright bracelet or avoid further trouble with a discreet pin?

Regardless of all indignation or laughter: this wardrobe dilemma for Helder makes it beautifully visible how much of a show of strength there is in Western Europe’s meeting with Qatar and FIFA. Interests, values ​​and powers collide. And it is not a question of all or nothing, whether next year is a gay parade in Doha or a lowered rainbow flag in Amsterdam.

No, the collision leads to tension and equilibrium and therefore requires strategy and calculation. How many square centimeters of symbolism will we be able to afford? At what provocation does Qatar turn off the gas tap? And how much repression does a consumer boycott start here? Questions about scanning, for both sides. With a clear trend: Europe’s power is waning, the price for us is rising immediately.

Just getting used to our camp not getting what it wants from itself. Behold the impotent fury of the seven Western European football associations who wanted their captains to wear a OneLove armband following FIFA’s decision to award a yellow card. “We are very frustrated with FIFA,” they said.

With the subtle punishment, FIFA President Infantino correctly read global relations. A fine was calculated by the KNVB cs, a sporting sanction was not. It was due to “unexpectedly large opposition” among conservative Qataris, it was said afterwards. The sheikhs must have exerted a lot of pressure.

However, that does not explain everything. The yellow card came from FIFA. The boss had to weigh: whose anger is the worst? The power of numbers also counts. The seven Western European confederations (in addition to the KNVB, also those in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, England, Wales and Switzerland) do not even represent the whole of Europe. France dropped out shortly, out of “respect” for Qatar, captain Hugo Lloris said. The southern and eastern European World Cup participants (Spain, Portugal, Italy, Poland, Croatia and Serbia) were not in the mood for the action anyway.

The World Football Association has 211 members, more than the United Nations, each with one vote. The legendary corrupt Brazilian president João Havelange (1974-1998), his controversial successor Sepp Blatter and since 2015 Infantino have built FIFA into a global institution. To this end, they broke the power of the European football umbrella organization UEFA. Blatter systematically told the small football nations of Asia, Africa and Oceania: “I am the only one who protects you from the power of UEFA.”

In this respect, FIFA in Zurich is similar to the United Nations in New York. There, too, the West is always surprised when countries in the rest of the world do not participate in, for example, sanctions against Russia. Unabashedly, Infantino, himself Swiss, made himself the spokesman for his non-Western clientele the day before the World Cup opener: “We should apologize for what Europe has done in the last 3,000 years for the next 3,000 years.” Were any workers killed in the stadium construction? Don’t forget the 25,000 drowned in the Mediterranean since 2014! The FIFA boss knows what his constituents want to hear; his third term begins in 2023.

The Qataris may have underestimated the opposing forces of Western European public outrage – with all the stories of abuses and human rights abuses coming out. Still, they won’t regret this World Cup. The country has forever attached its name to the world’s most popular sport and is a little safer.

As far back as 1995, documents NRCpodcast Qatar coup, so the new ruler football’s geostrategic importance. Positioned between regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran, Qatar cannot do without protectors. Football investments are a fast track to glamor and powerful friends.

At the request of the fan and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in 2010 Qatar bought the ailing club Paris Saint-Germain as well as a fleet of Airbus aircraft. In turn, UEFA base Michel Platini gave his vote to Qatar in the awarding of the World Cup finals in 2022. It worked well for both parties, because these days the French star and PSG player Kylian Mbappé is glorious in Qatar.

Qatar is also doing undisturbed good business in other areas. On Tuesday, it was announced that Germany will sign a contract for LNG supplies with a term of fifteen years starting in 2026. Four years ago, the football world gathered in Russia; in retrospect, we can call it the ‘Gazprom World Cup’. This year, in the midst of the Ukraine war, we are playing at the LNG World Cup.

Hatch of broker is a political philosopher and historian.

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