This is the World Cup side you want Qatar to ignore

It's one of those regular moments of harsh reality that takes you out of this World Cup illusion. When the taxi driver dropped off the group, suddenly there was a plea. This is not for a five star rating.

"Please give me a tip," he said. "I have no money to eat."

Driver, of South Asian descent, sends nearly all of his earnings back to his family. This should be the long-awaited period when such workers can generate income due to the large number of visitors to Qatar, but here are others who are starving.

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Anyone who is in Doha for the first week of this World Cup will have many similar stories unfolding before their eyes. The Center for Business Resources & Human Rights said on Sunday that there had been six cases of migrant worker abuse reported in that time alone.

This is a World Cup side Qatar would prefer you ignore, but that is unavoidable, considering they are so important to run this tournament.

However, most of it is about perspective and dazzling presentation. Walking around Qatar means being blinded by light, deafened by sound.

There's the luxury of Lusail, a new planned city built around the final venue. There is thunderous stadium "entertainment", clearly set up to mitigate the lack of atmosphere, but at times - as in Argentina-Mexico - suppresses it. There are even birdsong that are piped into several public parks, one of which is air-conditioned at Al Gharrafa.

The indulgent waste of energy makes recycling plastic bottles feel a bit pointless. Such worries underscore almost everything about Qatar, at least as soon as you stop thinking about it all in the midst of an onslaught of sensory overload.

Many areas around Lusail still have construction work, with plots of land unfinished and migrant workers still hard at work. Meanwhile, the announced attendance has attracted a lot of attention, especially since so many empty seats were visible. That confirms the assertion that Argentina-Mexico is the most-attended World Cup match since the 1994 final – with 88,966 against 94,194 – requiring at least a reservation. Then there's the vaunted claim that this will be the first carbon neutral tournament. That's a statement that's been derision from environmental groups like Greenly and seems utterly absurd when you're just walking around.

The truth seems much closer to the assessment of academic Mike Berners-Lee, who said this World Cup "will be the highest carbon event of any kind, other than war, that mankind has ever staged".

Meanwhile there is no official team sheet or program as this is a “green” tournament. It is as artificial as some environments. Even Souk Waqif, which does have some authenticity in how it is one of the few public spaces where fans can congregate, was rebuilt in the 1980s.

There are some genuine positives from this World Cup. There is immense pride at the first World Cup in an Arab country, and a Muslim country. That's important. Many of the locals are very welcoming and friendly, an important reminder of the differences between the state and its people. Metro shines. Logistical issues have been smoothed out as the competition has progressed. Stadium looks good.

However, especially regarding that last point, it's impossible to sincerely commend most of these for the incredibly immoral way they were constructed. You can't look at anything in Qatar, however superficially impressive, without thinking about the systemic abuse of migrant workers that it builds on.

It was a stain that could never be cleaned, no matter how many times the same worker was ordered to mop a floor that had not had time to accumulate dirt. Discussions about all of this have increased denials from Qatar.

"Say it and you will be called a racist," said a football official working in the area. "We were told how humble and welcome it all was but, in some cases, we found the opposite."

And now, as the tournament has progressed, it's developed into aloofness in certain venues. There is a reluctance to get involved. Even FIFA president Gianni Infantino was less visible after his tour de farce opening press conference.

This points to another core problem with this World Cup, reflecting this question of image and sham. As a police state where the royal family has absolute power, with no free press, they are not used to having their perspectives questioned.

It has made the entire World Cup an interesting and instructive world gathering. This is a geopolitical event more than a sport.

Many of these have been filtered out in one of the tournament's major flashpoints. The rainbow flag has acquired greater symbolism than usual.

There's what that actually represents, in terms of showing support for the LGBTQ+ community, and then what that represents as the tournament goes on – especially in terms of FIFA's relationship with Qatar.

As stories piled up of fans missing rainbow-colored items, the federations immediately complained to the governing body. They had been told before the World Cup that this would not be a problem. So, FIFA again contacted Qatar and the Safety and Security Operations Committee, which in turn gave them assurances that this would not be a problem again. Missives have been sent around.

It must be admitted there that, apart from a few authentic “local incidents” – such as one of the cameramen being told to remove his rainbow watchband – this statutory letter has been largely complied with. Fans haven't removed the rainbow item yet.

However, the more relevant point is that there is trepidation about it. FIFA officials were keen to stress to the federation that they cannot actually provide guarantees themselves, and only provide the guarantees they receive from Qatar.

One line is that "we can't keep an eye on the police". Several figures within the governing body spoke of how decisions could be made in one part of Qatar's power structure, only for someone with more influence elsewhere to decide otherwise.

In other words, the World Cup is what the country wants. All of this makes one thing very clear. The tail doesn't wag the dog here.

That's why the story of alcohol goes beyond selling beer in stadiums. It's only fair that a Muslim-majority country bans alcohol around stadiums, but why only decide it two days before the tournament starts?

That left FIFA scrabbling, in an unusual situation. "This shows that Qatar is really running this tournament," a top official told The Independent.

It also shows another complication with this World Cup, beyond the country layer. There is a growing feeling in some European federations that FIFA makes decisions conditioned by Qatar, not requested by them.

Case in point is the controversy over the OneLove armband, and especially FIFA's insistence there might be anything and especially FIFA's threat that there might be what one source described as "unlimited liability" if Britain and other European countries wore them in Qatar. The Independent has been told Qatar had nothing to do with it; it's all FIFA. What is astonishing is why FIFA officials are willing to be so tough, when there is no precedent for that. FIFA, for its part, would say it is simply reminding federations of their rules. The federation will say potential sanctions are not covered by the regulations.

It is impossible not to conclude that FIFA's position is beyond concern because it pertains to local sensitivities.

That would match accusations from Michael Posner, former US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor: “FIFA President Infantino tried to protect the Qatari government from legitimate criticism of how the companies they hired to build World Cup infrastructure have exploited poor migrant workers, especially from South Asia.”

That is why the key sentence of Infantino's opening speech, which suggests there is a calculation behind it, is about the "3,000 years" of Europe. The FIFA president called for a new power base, partly rejecting 'Western' criticism of how the World Cup was constructed.

Therefore, the World Cup, as Gareth Southgate describes it, is characterized by “external noise”. Hence everyone throws everything into every debate at the expense of the real issue. It seems unlikely that a World Cup built on "modern slavery" could go wrong. This is "orientalism".

That's how Carlos Queiroz went from questions about the Iranian nation to diversions like: "Why didn't you ask Southgate about Afghanistan?"

One of the greatest legacies of this World Cup may be how it articulated the growing divide between the global south and the West. Then there is the strange cross dynamic of the Gulf blockade, in which Saudi Arabia and Qatar seem to soften with each other only for Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman to then ban BeIn Sports from the Kingdom again.

Infantino will surely claim credit for the meltdown, but his words have sparked friction in regards to this new split in the game.

"Very disappointed he didn't degrade the situation," said the same source. "That's why this line about inheriting the World Cup no longer has any credence. If the original sin was giving Qatar the World Cup, the problem now is how badly they handled it, making a bad situation worse."

There are also legitimate complaints about FIFA in Qatar. Some locals found the resale system difficult to work, perhaps explaining some of the empty seats.

A further irony is that this is the last World Cup with a Local Organizing Committee. After this, FIFA will be in 100 per cent control.

Meanwhile, Infantino stands unopposed for re-election, with nearly 100 percent support. Only a handful of federations, including Denmark and Germany, have refused to do so.

The Football Association and Football Association of Wales plan to support him, although it has been repeatedly emphasized that their support is not unconditional, and comes with caveats. Much depends on Infantino's approach to Europe and especially his busy football calendar. This article was written by EDUKASI CAMPUS. 

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