Just a few days into the 2022 World Cup, feats of athleticism from the world’s best soccer players have been largely overshadowed by controversies and bold acts of defiance.
Driving the news: German players covered their mouths in their pre-game photo opp before a match against Japan—symbolizing how FIFA has tried to silence their voices.
Catchup: Germany’s team captain was one of several who planned to don rainbow armbands (a stance against Qatar’s oppressive laws against LGBTQ+ people) before backing out after FIFA said it would give players who wore them yellow cards.
- Since then, fans wearing rainbow apparel to games have claimed they were refused entry into games or had their rainbow items forcibly confiscated.
Why it matters: Qatar aggressively pursued the World Cup bid to have its shining moment in the sun as the world looked on, but what they likely didn’t expect was that some countries would steal the spotlight to make their political grievances heard.
- The same could be of FIFA, which was already unpopular and now looks tone-deaf after a press conference that was seen as trivializing human rights concerns.
Even as FIFA tries to reign things in, protests have been breaking out like a high schooler’s forehead. Denmark packed black alternate jerseys to honour migrant workers who died building the stadiums, and various international delegates have rocked rainbows.
Zoom out: Not all protests have been related to Qatar. Iranian players risked major reprisals for refusing to sing their national anthem in solidarity with ongoing protests at home.