Soccer and politics: a recap of the 2023 FIFA World Cup thus far


@fifaworldcup on Instagram

Lydia Lutchman, Staff Writer

The FIFA 2022 World Cup is currently taking place in the Arabian Peninsula country of Qatar and is the 22nd men’s international football tournament to occur. It is also the second World Cup to take place in an Asian country, and the first one to take place in a country where the population is predominantly Muslim. The tournament started on Nov. 20 and ends on Dec. 18.

The World Cup is enjoyed by many and is seen as a way to kick back, relax and watch your favorite team and players go head-to-head for the iconic solid gold trophy. The prize is not the only expensive thing on the roster for the World Cup, as it was revealed that Qatar had spent over $220 billion fixing their airports and building venues, stadiums and roads over the past twelve years in preparation for the small Arab country to host the largest sporting event in the world. It is said to be the most expensive World Cup thus far. 

University Sophomore Vyaad Ramnarine is keeping up with this year’s World Cup. “I really like the upsets and unpredictability of this World Cup,” Ramnarine said. “There’s just something about this World Cup and the underdog teams standing out.” 

There have been iconic moments in these games so far, one of which being South Korea’s comeback on Dec. 2 by Hwang Hee-Chan and Son Heung-Min, when the two players managed to score a final goal and win in their game against Portugal, advancing them to the knockout stage. Heung-Min smoothly passed the ball to Hee-Chan who quickly kicked it into the goal, avoiding the opposing end completely. 

Another major highlight is Lionel Messi, who led the Argentinian team to victory against Australia on Dec. 3, allowing the country to advance into the quarterfinals. The game was initially tied 1-1, but Messi scored a goal, to the delight of fans across the globe, especially since Argentina lost their first game to Saudi Arabia, resulting in them losing their winning streak. Argentina is one of the fan-favorite teams, and many hope they win this year’s World Cup. 

Despite all these celebrations, there have been many controversies surrounding this year’s World Cup, especially about its hosting country. Qatar has been largely criticized for its human rights violations, as it is estimated that hundreds of workers from various countries have died due to the inhumane working conditions and treatment they endured during infrastructure developments.

Another social issue surrounds the country’s view of the LGBTQ+ community since homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and punishable by jail time. The English, Dutch, Belgian, Danish, Swiss and Welsh teams had intended to wear OneLove rainbow armbands to stand in solidarity for the community but quickly pulled back once FIFA threatened to impose sporting sanctions on those who went through with the plan. Not all teams stayed completely silent though as Germany still managed to protest by having each team member cover their mouth with their hand during a group picture, saying that denying them the ability to wear the armbands “is the same as denying us a voice.”

Not all protests have been directed at Qatar or FIFA. Iran’s team stayed quiet during their national anthem during their Nov. 21 match with England because the team captain, Ehsan Hajsafi, announced that he supported the anti-government protests that are currently occurring in their home country. Hajsafi’s response was due in large part because of the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman in police custody after being arrested for not wearing her hijab in a way that they deemed proper. The entire team went along with this and stood in solidarity with the people and women of Iran during this time of nationwide crisis. 

Iranian players also wore black jackets over their uniforms to cover Iran’s national emblem on Sept. 27, which many protestors applauded them for. Many who have protested publicly have been arrested or were forced to succumb to police brutality, which has resulted in dozens of deaths. Protestors are now being put on trial in the country, while judges have sentenced approximately six people to the death penalty.

Before the tournament, FIFA made a comment saying that every team should “focus on the football,” rather than what’s going on in the world, but it’s hard for fans and football players to turn a blind eye to the political mishap occurring in the country where the football resides. 

As the final approaches, Argentina, Croatia, France and Morocco are the four teams heading into the semifinals, all vying for the coveted title. Morocco is the first African team to advance to this stage in World Cup history, and no country has scored against them throughout the duration of the tournament.