The Qatar World Cup is probably the most controversial one we’ve had in recent years.
With issues about human rights, construction workers’ deaths, and a lack of football culture, this World Cup is in the news every other day, and not for the right reasons.
Most recently, football legend David Beckham is facing a massive backlash for praising Qatar, calling it “perfection,” despite the fact that it is still illegal to be homosexual and women face enormous challenges.
Beckham can be seen sailing on a yacht, riding a motorcycle, and touring a spice market during the 30-minute Visit Qatar video.
He then stops to take selfies with people, visits a bazaar, and has lunch with several men wearing traditional Arab garb.
Having a same-sex relationship is still criminal in Qatar. The harshest punishment for breaching its internationally criticized legislation are seven years in prison.
Some people have opted to boycott the World Cup as local authorities failed to guarantee the safety of LGBTQ+ spectators and athletes there.
In Qatar, women must also obtain a male “guardian’s” consent before getting married or taking advantage of government-sponsored study abroad opportunities.
Additionally, over 6,500 people have died during the construction of the new stadiums in the country, according to a study done by The Guardian.
Amnesty International, a group that advocates for human rights, is currently leading a fierce response against the video.
Amnesty International UK accused Beckham of failing “yet again” to mention the nation’s “appalling” treatment of migrant workers and minorities in an interview with DailyMail.
The organisation urged the former England captain to use his “global fame and status” to help hold the nation accountable.
In an interview with ITV News, Mustafa Qadri, CEO of Equidem, a civil rights and labour rights NGO, claimed Beckham’s involvement in tourist marketing is “incredibly naive” and “blind”, particularly in light of recent accusations claiming mistreatment of migrant labourers.
Mr Qadri, just like Amnesty International, said that the former England international is squandering the chance to use his platform to raise awareness of social problems in Qatar
Twitter users also criticised Beckham’s choice to support “backward” Qatar, calling him “unprincipled” and accusing him of “doing it for the money” and “selling his soul”.
Some drew attention to the fact that Beckham had previously voiced criticism of Russia’s and Qatar’s success in their hosting bids. In a 2011 interview, Beckham claimed that there must have been “corruption” at FIFA, which made him feel “sick”.
Others have brought up the “attitude” magazine shoot, in which he spoke out strongly in favour of LGBTQ+ rights. This was back in 2002 when this kind of support was not viewed as “on trend”.
This raises the question of whether the financial gain from this transaction caused him to modify his beliefs about human rights.
A PR stunt for a country so openly against women’s rights is hypocritical for Beckham, who is a self-declared feminist and a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF.
The former football player has stated in the past that his association with Qatar gives him the chance to effect change from the inside and use sport as a tool for good. However, this does not appear to be a change; rather, it seems to be sports-washing.