Wednesday, December 8, 2021

As a gay woman, I would never want to go to Qatar – footballers should stand up for human rights

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Perhaps the most important thing we footballers can do before the World Cup is to talk about the situation there – for the sake of the workers who had no voice, writes Chelsea captain Magda Eriksson

The men’s qualifiers this week got me thinking about how I would feel if the women went to Qatar next year and the truth is I had mixed feelings, to say the least. We’d definitely talk about it in our Swedish locker room.

It’s women’s football weekend, but in my first column this season I want to address something in the men’s field – namely the World Cup in Qatar.

I think one of the advantages of being a footballer is that we always had to speak for ourselves. Throughout my career, almost every interview has had a bigger topic – for a long time promoting women’s football – so it might be easy now.

In order to do justice to the Swedish Football Association, they, together with the other Nordic football associations, have actively put pressure on Fifa and in joint letters calling on them to stand up for human and labor rights in Qatar, including calling on the world organization to see the thousands of Investigate deaths that Amnesty has reported there since the 2022 finals were awarded.

The Norwegian Football Association even voted on a possible boycott in June, while Sweden’s men canceled plans for a January training camp in Qatar in September under pressure from top Swedish clubs.

However, I haven’t heard too many individual players have their say, and personally I’m a bit disappointed with our Swedish players that they no longer take a stand. I wouldn’t expect each of them to have an opinion, but I would encourage those who do, as they have a large platform to share.

I recently read an article by Tim Sparv, Finland’s captain the Bleachers Website in which he underlines this point. He doesn’t consider himself a big name, but he is doing everything possible to shed light on the situation in Qatar after two and a half years trying to figure out what is going on there.

I’m a football romantic, so the sportswashing business – be it Qatar, which uses football to promote its country, or the Saudi takeover of Newcastle United – makes me uneasy at first. Additionally, I consider her a gay woman who would never vacation in a country like Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

Ultimately, I would argue that there are two ways – either you boycott it completely, or you go there and make no bones about what you stand for. I was most likely to experience this when Sweden played a friendly earlier this year in Poland, a country that has “LGBT-free” zones.

As a team, we discussed what we could do about it, and in the end we decided not to protest, but instead I interviewed Quickdraws, one of the two largest newspapers in Sweden, and talked about it there. It was important to address at least one topic that I think was very important.

In the case of Qatar, therefore, perhaps the most important thing we footballers can do is talk about the situation there – in the interests of the workers who had no voice. If teams like England (and hopefully Sweden) qualify for the World Cup, I would sincerely encourage them to speak up if they have something to say because that way, at least something good could come of it.

My other hope is that this will give us a more transparent FIFA. I’ve never had anything to do with Fifa, but as a player I would ask them to involve us footballers more in order to make them more legitimate. And supporters too. In political science one speaks of a top-down government or a bottom-up government; You can rule in different ways. When you get players, fans, and the football community involved, it becomes more legitimate.

For example, why not give the fans a voice about where they want future World Cups to be? That would be a way to involve the entire community. It could be like the Best Awards organized by Fifa, for which 25 percent of the votes come from an online fan poll.

Finally, as far as the fans are concerned, it was incredible to play Servette in Geneva on Tuesday in front of more than 12,000 spectators in the Women’s Champions League. That’s more than Servette’s men have had for every home game this season.

The Women’s Champions League has a group stage for the first time and that means we can travel across Europe from October to test ourselves. You can tell from the whole Chelsea squad that there is a different feeling about playing these games. It’s become a fantastic tournament for us and a fantastic showcase for women’s football and it’s a privilege to play in it.

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