Tim Sparv: Staying silent is ‘not an option’ with soccer heading in ‘dangerous’ direction after Qatar 2022


Former Finland captain Tim Sparrow says he hopes this month’s World Cup in Qatar will be a turning point for a sport he believes is heading down a “dangerous” path.

The star, who has turned to activism since retiring, has been an outspoken critic of soccer’s governing body FIFA for awarding the tournament over human rights concerns – particularly its treatment of migrant workers, its laws on homosexuality and attitudes towards women in society. Qatar has been

FIFA, a $5.6 billion business, has been plagued by decades-long bribery schemes that prompted a US Justice Department investigation. It’s a legacy that still looms over the governing body and its decision to award the 2018 Games to Russia and the impending 2022 event to Qatar.

And amid reports that Saudi Arabia could make a joint bid to host the 2030 games alongside Egypt and Greece, Sparrow has asked FIFA for more, saying he would like to see hosting major tournaments as “a reward for doing something good”.

“The World Cup should be an inclusive World Cup,” Sparrow told CNN Sport. “Everyone should feel welcome. Everyone should feel safe and they don’t.

“The process is dangerous. This is not a healthy direction that we are going and I feel that people are in a powerful position […] Everyone has a very important role to play.”

Qatar 2022 starts on November 20.

Amid continued criticism of Qatar, FIFA has asked participating nations to focus on football and leave politics out of the game.

But for Sparrow, that’s not an option.

Since hanging up his boots, Sparrow has visited Qatar with FIFPRO – the world’s representative body for professional footballers – and said he has seen the negative impact the tournament has had on migrant workers.

“In a perfect world, we can trust our governing bodies to make good decisions for us,” he added.

But that’s not the case and that’s why we need these outside critical voices to have an opinion and make sure our sport is on the right track.

Sparrow says he also wants Qatar to be a catalyst for governing bodies to put players at the forefront of decision-making to avoid choosing between their careers, but also potentially taking a political stance during the tournament.

He is aware of the changes FIFA has made in recent years, such as the creation of the FIFA Human Rights Advisory Board – an independent advisory body made up of labor and human rights experts – and is interested to see what impact this will have in the future. .

I think there’s been a shift in our perception of where the sport is going. I hope we have clearer rules on how we allow certain countries to bid for the World Cup.

“I think there should be a set of criteria that have to be met before they’re allowed to bid. It’s a bit late to ask Qatar for something when they’ve already been awarded.

“I think the legacy is that every single one of us; the fans, the coaches, the players, the federations, everyone involved in the sport, takes a stand and says this can’t happen again.”

FIFA says which in recent years has defined and implemented a human rights policy based on the guiding principles of the United Nations in the field of trade and human rights in its official position.

Workers at the construction site of Al Beit Stadium on January 9, 2017.

Sparrow will retire in 2021 and says it took him a while to “wake up” from football’s “bubble”.

As a young player, he says he was often blind to the negative forces affecting the game, and it wasn’t until his Finnish teammate Rikko Riski refused to participate in a training camp in 2019 that Sparrow began educating himself on It went beyond football.

He has since written two pieces for The Players’ Tribune expressing his disapproval of the Qatar World Cup, the latest being published earlier this month.

However, the 35-year-old says he does not approve of player boycotts of such tournaments and admits he would represent his country if he had the chance.

He understands the hypocrisy of such a statement, but says it’s an opportunity for players and teams to highlight important issues.

“Playing for the national team means more than just winning football games,” Sparrow said.

“You have a tremendous opportunity to improve people’s lives, to shine a light on things that are much bigger than winning football games. It would be a bit of a waste not to take advantage of this opportunity.”

While Qatar’s recognition has brought positive changes to its labor laws, Sparrow says enforcement is often lax and he worries what will happen when the world’s eyes inevitably turn away from the 2022 World Cup.

Sparrow has decided not to compete in the tournament, which begins on November 20, but says he will reconsider his position if there is an opportunity to do something meaningful.

Overall, though, he’s optimistic that change will happen and says he’s dedicated to using his platform to keep the pressure on the people who decide the future of the beautiful game.

“I’m really curious to see where we go from here,” he said.

In the media spotlight, journalists, just me personally, someone from Finland, I have done many interviews about these issues.

“It’s never been like that before, so I think that’s a good direction we’re headed.”

Qatar’s High Delivery and Legacy Committee told CNN Sport that the World Cup will be “an inclusive and safe tournament” and that labor reforms have significantly improved the lives of thousands of workers.

“Everyone is welcome regardless of race, background, religion, gender, orientation or nationality,” a statement to CNN said.

We have also always been committed to ensuring that this World Cup leaves a transformative social, human, economic and environmental legacy and is remembered as a landmark moment in our region’s history.”

He added: Like any country, there is always room for improvement. This will continue long after the World Cup is over as it is important for us to continue to build on the progress made over the past decade.


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