Activism

How fans and players around the world are protesting the Qatar World Cup

From toned-down kits to cancelling fanzones, countries around the world are approaching the controversial Qatar World Cup in different ways

Qatar World Cup

The run-up to the Qatar World Cup has increased focus on the country's human rights record. Image: Robert Wilson/flickr

The Qatar World Cup has put fans in a difficult position. For some, it’s the first chance in decades to watch their team play on the biggest stage, or a golden generation’s final shot at glory.

But the backdrop to that is the country’s poor human rights records, repression of LGBTQ+ rights, and the deaths of migrant workers building the stadiums.

For the individual fan, it’s a dilemma – boycott the tournament? Watch it and make your voice heard? Around the world, fans and players are taking a stance. Here’s how they’re doing it.

Switzerland

Swiss LGBTQ+ protesters gathered outside Fifa’s museum in Zurich to accuse the governing body of failing to protect LGBTQ+ rights in Qatar.

Led by the groups All Out and Pink Cross, protesters performed a stunt where LGBTQ+ players tried to “score”, but were blocked by activists in Qatari police and Fifa referee outfits.

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Germany

German football has a vocal and passionate fan culture, owing to the fact fans must own at least half of the club’s voting rights. And at Bundesliga games in the run-up to the tournament, fans were making their voices heard with banners and strong messages.

Borussia Mönchengladbach fans held banners decrying the “Fifa mafia” while Hertha Berlin fans held messages reading “Boycott Qatar” and “No Herthaner will watch the World Cup in Qatar”.

The German national team – die Mannschaft – flew into Qatar with a plane bearing a “diversity wins” message.

France

Fanzones, somehow, have become a staple part of enjoying any international football tournament. In the UK, they’re the place to get aerosoled by £8 pints, only to find the ball has hit the side netting, and then trudge off to the bar to purchase another and do it all over again.

But, to badly paraphrase Bob Geldof, there won’t be fanzones in France this Christmastime. Paris, Bordeaux, Lille, and Marseille are among the cities boycotting the tournament over human rights concerns.

However, some said the decision was also due in part to the cost of living crisis.

Benoit Payan, the mayor of Marseille, said the World Cup had “progressively turned itself into a human and environmental catastrophe, incompatible with the values which we expect sport – and especially football – to promote”.

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USA

The USA’s men’s team, as part of its “Be the Change” campaign, has made a visible show of support for the LGBTQ+ community.

A mural on the wall of the team’s training facility features the nation’s crest painted in rainbow colours and a message reading: “One Nation”.

“When we are on the world stage and when we are in a venue like Qatar, it is important to bring awareness to these issues and that is what ‘Be the Change’ is about,” manager Gregg Berhalter said at a press conference.

Denmark

The Danish national team will wear a “toned down” version of their kit in protest at Qatar’s human rights record. Fifa’s rules do not allow explicit political messages on kits, and the organisation stopped Denmark wearing training kits with “human rights for all” emblazoned on them.

The side’s usual red home and white away kits will be joined by a black third-choice jersey honouring the migrant workers who lost their lives building stadiums.

Manufacturer Hummel said: “While we support the Danish national team all the way, this shouldn’t be confused with support for a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives.”

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