By: Danit Forman  | 

Unpack With YUPAC: Foul Play: The Double Standard of Politics at the World Cup

Leading up to this year’s FIFA World Cup there was a lot of buzz in Israel because of the Qatari government’s decision to allow Israeli fans to attend. Part of this plan was the establishment of the first direct flight path from Israel to Qatar. This excitement was quickly replaced by discomfort after many Israeli journalists and fans experienced high levels of anti-Israel sentiment from locals and fans from other countries. Many fans returned to Israel early out of fear of hostility and violence against them. Even more concerning circumstances arose when pro-Palestinian messaging began to appear throughout the tournament.

The conversation around political messages at the 2022 World Cup started with the “One Love” armband initiative. This initiative was started by the Dutch Football Association to “express their support for the unification of all people.” It is decorated with a rainbow heart and represents the opposition to any form of discrimination. The “One Love” armband initiative began in 2020 but it only became more widespread in September of 2022. Prior to this year’s World Cup, several captains from European teams announced that they would be sporting these armbands during their matches in Qatar. The players specifically wanted to wear the armbands in Qatar because of the country’s strict criminalization of the LGBTQ+ community. 

FIFA has always had strict regulations pertaining to team uniforms. Among these rules, it is stated that “no item (of playing kit or other clothing or equipment or otherwise) may be worn or used in any controlled area if FIFA considers that it is dangerous, offensive or indecent, includes political, religious, or personal slogans, statements, or images, or otherwise does not comply in full with the laws of the game.” The organization even went as far as to state that they would administer yellow cards to any players seen wearing the armbands, which is much stricter than the expected fine they would receive. These uniform regulations have been restated and are very straightforward, so it came as no surprise when FIFA didn’t permit the wearing of these clearly political armbands. Because of FIFA’s upholding of their strict regulations on including political messages in the games in any capacity, many Israeli fans were outraged when the Moroccan football team suffered no repercussions after bringing a Palestinian flag onto the field following their victory against Spain.

There had been many fans seen around Qatar sporting pro-Palestine armbands and waving Palestinian flags throughout the tournament, but this action reached another level. The flag being waved by a team on the field made a much bigger and more obvious political statement, and clearly violated FIFA’s regulations against political messaging. Yet, Morocco’s team has not yet received any repercussions for their actions. As they are the last Muslim nation left in the competition, they have stated that they will carry on the Palestinian cause for the duration of the games. This situation has been especially frustrating for pro-Israel fans because FIFA has not shied away from disciplining teams who violate their regulations. Teams have received fines in the past for failing to adhere to FIFA regulations and many people are questioning why this case is being treated differently.

It is no secret that Qatar is not a very welcoming country for Israeli supporters and citizens, especially given the large amount of monetary support the Qatari government has given to Hamas. The political statement being made is one that Qatar, which FIFA wants to make happy, agrees with. Many people are speculating that this is the reason for FIFA’s failure to address the clearly political messaging of the waving of the Palestinian flag. 

FIFA has stated many times in the past that its mission is to unite countries from around the world around the game of football. By allowing this anti-Israel incident to occur, the organization is explicitly going against its mission. Unfortunately, this anti-Israel sentiment and FIFA’s unequal treatment of protests against Israel is something that Israel supporters are all too familiar with. 

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Photo Caption: The 2022 World Cup in Qatar has exposed the hypocrisy of FIFA and it’s anti-Israel bias

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons