Ken Doherty World Cup Diary – Stage protests before end of World Cup in Qatar

Former World Champion defends players’ right to express their opinions

by Ken Doherty
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Former World Snooker champion Ken Doherty has called on World Cup football teams to come together to make a meaningful protest before the Qatar held tournament ends in two weeks’ time. 

Dubliner Doherty exclusively talks in his Dublin Gazette column inside this week of his disappointment that England’s Harry Kane, Welsh skipper Garth Bale and the Iranian national team didn’t get more backing from football authorities. 

He laments instead they were threatened that if they wore LGBT+ armbands or demonstrated against the host country’s appalling human rights record in the building of stadia for this global competition, they would face game punishments such as yellow cards.

Like many others around the globe, I think football players at the Qatar World Cup allowed themselves to be outmanoeuvred by the hosts and FIFA when it came to getting the message across on human rights and LGBT+ rights during this tournament. 

England captain Harry Kane and his Welsh counterpart Garth Bale threatened to stand up for these minorities but were stopped from wearing rainbow armbands when FIFA made it clear they would be yellow-carded for carrying such protest onto the field of play. 

Now I know this is primarily a football tournament but that doesn’t mean that players shouldn’t have the right to make their opinions known and respected by the home nation or more specifically their own global representative body. 

I wonder if the stars of the show – the players – realise how much clout they actually have in these situations. This is a multi-billion dollar event and I believe if all the team captains came together and decided on a non-negotiable campaign of say wearing armbands, do you think Qatar or FIFA would call off the World Cup and suck up the losses? Absolutely no chance. 

‘Wouldn’t it be tremendously impacting if both sides in the final decided to wear arm bands and their associations and every other national association supported the action’

– Ken Doherty

Instead, they make a bluff warning and everyone falls into place. I would, not for the first time, agree with Roy Keane when he said Kane and Bale should have worn the armbands and by doing so show solidarity with the voiceless in that part of the world and elsewhere. 

Coming after the tripe spouted by FIFA President Gianni Infantino about understanding minorities because he had red hair as a kid, this was FIFA’s effort to hold up their end of the bargain to the hosts so that they could get the games up and running without protestors gaining any foothold. 

In football terms, I think FIFA and Qatar have won the first leg of the propaganda war but there is a way the players and those supporting human rights can end up winners in the desert by winning on the final day.

Wouldn’t it be tremendously impacting if both sides in that final decided to wear arm bands and their associations and every other national association supported the action…making it clear the game would not go ahead if there was any attempt to disarm (sic) this protest. 

Irish snooker star Ken Doherty with the Sam Maguire at the Ulster Council GAA convention. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

When you consider that 1.2 billion viewers tuned in to the 2018 final between France and Croatia, just imagine the effect that would have with such a percentage of the world’s population watching in. 

There is no doubt that something should be done when people’s sexual orientation is a reason for suppression and when 6,500 migrants workers die in the 10 years’ duration of building stadia in Qatar. 

In fact, it would be offensive to the human race not to highlight such horrific situations and instead just shower the hosts with praise. In truth, FIFA didn’t cover themselves in glory the way the tournament was awarded and both should realise that such protests is long overdue. 

I am a mad sports fan and after getting that off my chest, I will say that in terms of entertainment, there has been good spectacles with Spain hitting seven, Argentina, Germany and Belgium suffering surprise losses and our neighbour England blowing hot and cold in the first few games. 

I am taking the romantic route by hoping that Portugal and Argentina make it to the final simply because I want Messi and Ronaldo to face off in the ultimate game between the two best players the world has possibly ever seen but definitely the best duo this millennium.

Such a showdown would, I suspect, bring even bigger viewing figures than ever before and that would be the ideal place to get the message across that regimes who persecute people for their sexual orientation and impinge on human rights have to be called out at every turn. 

That would be the great victory of all… for the underdogs of our society.

Featured Image: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

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