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Football, Religion and Politics – Contested Narratives from the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar
From a western perspective, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar became one of the most controversial sport mega events of all times. The allocation of the tournament to Qatar back in 2010 caused widespread shock and took place under a large cloud of claims about corruption. Calls for boycott grew among European football fans and leaders in the years that followed, especially as news of the conditions for migrant workers at the construction sites for the seven new stadiums filtered through. The world cup kicked off with football fans, especially in Scandinavia and Northern Europe, claiming they would not watch a minute of the games. This stand was enhanced by images from the Qatari capital Doha showing groups of Asian migrant workers waving flags for national teams from South America and Europe in the days leading up to the world cup. These were largely portrayed as “fake fans” in Western media. However as a sport mega event, the 2022 world cup also provided a platform for other voices. This paper is based on field observations during the world cup in Qatar, with a particular focus on how Iranian fans made this event into an extended arena for protests against the Islamist regime in Iran. These protests were ignited in many Iranian locations following the death in police custody of the young woman Masha Amini in September 2022, after she had been arrested for not wearing her hijab correctly. Theoretically the paper will discuss the concept of neo-orientalism as a way to undertand the rhetorics around the 2022 FIFA world cup in parts of the western media.
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