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Qatar and the soiling of the spirit of sport

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It is outrageous that a state that finances terrorism should host the 2022 FIFA World Cup

Sport is meant to bring out the best in us: physical agility, mental equanimity, team spirit and unity of purpose. But ever since Qatar was awarded the hosting rights for the 2022 Fifa World Cup, what we have witnessed is something else entirely. Can anyone say with a shred of honesty that the spectacle unfolding in Qatar is capable of inspiring anything other than revulsion? Allegations of corruption and bribery have been compounded by reports of the ill-treatment of the 800,000 migrant workers drafted by Qatar to make it ready for 2022.

But as Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, elaborated in a series of tweets on Tuesday, Qatar’s egregious dereliction of duty doesn’t stop there. Doha also tarnishes sport with its remorseless support for terrorism. How outrageous, when one contemplates it, that a state that finances terrorism and extends warm hospitality to extremists should host one of the most important events on the global sporting calendar. Dr Gargash called on Qatar to repudiate its “policies of supporting extremism [and] terrorism” and urged it to “review its record”.

The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, has terminated its trade and diplomatic ties with Doha since June this year. Despite being on the receiving end of Doha’s sinister actions, there was not a hint of malice in Dr Gargash’s tweets. They contained genuine advice that, if followed, will honour the spirit of sports and perhaps help bring the current crisis to an end. Qatar’s defiant posturing can scarcely conceal its damaged position. A recent report, Qatar in Focus: Is the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Danger?, has revealed that, in light of the current political climate, diplomats are beginning to doubt Qatar’s ability to host the FIFA tournament. Many fear that the event will be abruptly cancelled.

If Qatar were a responsible state, it would be rushing to make amends. But Doha, as we have seen, is as recalcitrant as it is brazen. So instead of fixing its problems, it decided to create a distraction by deploying its media assets to undermine the UAE’s role in Yemen. The UAE, as part of a Saudi-led coalition, has been striving to restore Yemen’s internationally-recognised government, which was overthrown by the clients of Qatar’s comrade Iran, another notorious terror-exporting state. Qatar’s risible media campaign against the UAE in the name of Yemen, where Doha has aided terrorists, will backfire, as Dr Gargash pointed out. Qatar hoped to use the 2022 FIFA World Cup to boost its soft power. Instead, it finds itself being buried under a pile of hard truths.

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