Football might be like a religion to many in those major European cities, but there is now something more important: basic human rights.
There are unprecedented scenes all across the continent, with huge, peaceful protests against FIFA and the oppressive Qatari regime taking place at a time when people would usually be talking about nothing but ‘the world game’.
There have been widespread protests across Germany in response to both FIFA and the oppressive Qatari regime
Barcelona mayor Ada Colau has made sure the city does not have any public viewing spaces to watch the World Cup in protest at the Qatari ‘dictatorship’
Left-wing mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau, who rose to the role in 2015, was scathing of the ‘dictatorship’ in Qatar, and blasted the sport’s governing body for sending the tournament to the Arab nation.
Colau said she would not ‘dedicate public resources nor public spaces for the viewing of a World Cup that is being held in a dictatorship’.
‘It is a mistake to organise a global sports event, which should promote democratic values, peace and human rights, in a dictatorship,’ the former housing activist said.
So Europe’s second-largest city, and home to the iconic ‘Barca’ club, won’t have a public viewing area for the World Cup.
Instead of showing the tournament in Qatar, bars across Germany are set to show films, host foosball and darts tournaments and even play World Cup on PlayStation.
The slogans ‘Qatar 2022 not our World Cup’ and ‘Boycott Qatar’ are written on a flyer on the entrance to a pub, ‘Baiz’, in Berlin
Dortmund pub Mit Schmackes, owned by 2014 World Cup winner Kevin Grosskreutz, is prepared to lose money over its stand against FIFA and Qatar.
‘We love soccer and we can also say that we live soccer. The reasons are clear – that’s why we will decline to broadcast the World Cup matches in Qatar, even if this results in losses for us,’ the pub said in an Instagram post, to which Grosskreutz replied with three fire emojis to indicate his approval.
Steif Krüger, who runs a bar in Berlin, said Friday he’s boycotting the entire tournament, even if Germany makes it to the final.
‘What´s happening at the World Cup is just terrible. The people who have always watched soccer with us also know that we won’t show it and are happy to support that,’ he said.
Bar owner Steif Krueger poses for a photo outside his ‘Krueger Bar’. He says he will not be showing any World Cup matches in protest against human rights abuses in Qatar – and his regulars are supportive of his stance
Cult pub Lotta, in Cologne, which has two giant screens that are on a constant football loop, is one of the country’s most iconic sporting bars – but the city which is home to FC Koln won’t be showing the tournament either.
‘We want to set an example against this thoroughly corrupt FIFA system, where it’s really all about money and human rights and the football culture don’t matter at all,’ he told DW.
‘And of course Qatar tops it all off: the oppression of women, discrimination against homosexuals and the appalling working conditions.’
There were widespread protests against the World Cup during Bundesliga and second division games just prior to tournament starting; with fans holding banners blasting the human rights situation in Qatar and recent comments by World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman denouncing homosexuality.
Borussia Dortmund fans hold up a giant sign with the hashtag ‘Boycott Qatar 2022’ during their game against Stuttgurt. The passionate fans also held the same sign during their Champions League clash with Manchester City
A sign saying ‘Boycott Qatar 2022’ can be seen being displayed by SC Freiburg fans before the club’s game against FC Union Berlin on November 13
A total of 20,000 candles was set up by German artist Volker-Johannes Trieb at Stadium Struenkede Castle during the opening game of the World Cup to commemorate what the event organizers say are deaths of thousands of migrant workers in the construction of infrastructure for the tournament in Qatar
The former Qatari football representative said gay people have ‘diseased minds’. Homosexuality is punishable in Qatar by up to seven years in jail, or even death by stoning.
There’s also the matter of the 6500 migrant workers who died constructing the World Cup infrastructure – something Qatar continues to deny despite a mountain of evidence.
‘We don’t want to enjoy a World Cup like this. The fans do not identify with it and are saying they don´t want to have anything to do with it,’ Bernd Beyer of the Boycott Qatar 2022 initiative said.
Migrant workers during the construction of Lusail Stadium in 2019. Up to 6500 have reportedly died in the building of the infrastructure for the World Cup, though the Qatari regime continues to insist it isn’t true despite the evidence
The lack of enthusiasm also has had a commercial impact. Retailers have previously capitalized on the buzz around major tournaments with Germany team-related offers.
Former Germany coach Joachim Löw and his players would usually be seen everywhere promoting various goods and services, but this time around, the Association of German Sports Retailers says sales are WAY down.
‘So far it´s not even half of what is usually sold in stores at major events of this kind,’ the association´s president Stefan Herzog told the RND newspaper group.
Incredibly, the manufacturer of the national team kit, Adidas, said the Germany jersey was being outsold by Mexico, likely due to the stylish nature of the top rather than any affinity to the country itself.
Incredibly, such is the nature of protesting against FIFA and Qatar in Germany, and the subsequent lack of interest to support both, the German jersey is being outsold by Mexico
Sales of TV sets, which generally go up for major sporting events, are also down – proving no industry is immune from the protesting and subsequent lack of interest in the World Cup.
Bundesliga clubs, including Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach have publicly criticized the decision to give the World Cup to Qatar, and said they will only give it minimum attention on their websites and social media platforms.
Another club, Hoffenheim, says it won´t report on the tournament at all.
‘There´s just a multitude of things that have happened and are happening there that overshadow the great joy of sporting competition,’ Jörg Schmadtke, the director of Wolfsburg, told the Wolfsburger Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper last week.
Schmadtke said he didn’t even know if he will watch the games on TV.
‘It doesn´t move me like in previous years, when I looked forward to such a tournament,’ he said.
The usual massive ‘fan mile’ viewing party at Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate was cancelled in September, a time-honoured part of the World Cup experience for German fans.
Around 9 million supporters took part in it when Germany hosted the tournament in 2006, enjoying the mile-long stretch of food and drink vendors with giant screens showing games.
And sadly, the German players, who were keen to shine a light and protest against a lack of LGBTI+ rights and the treatment of migrant workers, have now been prevented from doing so with FIFA announcing they would ban any captain who wears the One Love armband.
That was to include Manuel Neuer, the veteran goalkeeper who won the 2014 World Cup with Germany, after he knocked back similar requests from the sport’s governing body to abstain from making a stand.
German captain, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, sports a rainbow One Love armband and rainbow-striped boots, in the side’s friendly against Oman earlier this month
Belgium’s soccer federation this week also dropped plans to set up a fan zone for supporters to follow games on big screens citing a lack of demand.
Yes, a football-mad country does not want to watch the world’s biggest football tournament.
‘Since it was not possible for most fans to travel to Qatar, we wanted to bring the World Cup to them. But we sold far fewer tickets than we had planned, and it’s clear that at the moment, events with big screens are less popular than in other years,’ said a spokesperson for the federation.
Cities across France – the reigning World Champions – have also nixed any public viewing areas for the World Cup, protesting against both FIFA and Qatar.
The question remains though: will the powerbrokers at the notoriously corrupt and money-hungry FIFA even care?