26 Dec 2017 - 12:31

Politicising sports

The Peninsula

Politicising sports for vested interests is not an internal issue but it has more often become an international issue of concern. Some sports experts are even calling for international measures to prevent politics from spilling over into sports. 

Targeting Qatar for hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022 is one of the examples of politicisation of sports which is very evident from some quarters especially by two countries of an Arab quartet who announced an unjust blockade against this nation more than six months ago. The World Cup has been a target for the blockading countries, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE pressuring world football governing body FIFA on the issue. However, their nefarious attempts failed with FIFA which rejected all their allegations.

But the siege countries continued their dirty politics by targeting this year’s Gulf Cup which was to be hosted by Qatar, the defending champion. With none of the football associations from three siege countries responding to requests to confirm their participation by November 30, it was expected that Gulf Cup 2017 would have to be cancelled. But Qatar’s strong stand that sports should not be mixed with political interests and its willingness to transfer the tournament to Kuwait and FIFA’s approval of the move, all the anxieties were over and the Gulf Cup kicked off in a splendid manner without any boycott. It is worth mentioning that the FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who attended the inaugural matches in Kuwait, congratulated the Qatari football authorities for their honourable gesture.

However, the anti-Qatar attitude of the siege countries continues to boil on the venue of the tournament. Before the beginning of the Gulf Cup matches the Saudi national football team arrived for a press conference but left the room immediately after a short photo session, without taking questions from the waiting journalists. When journalists asked for the reason, Kuwaiti officials said that Saudi team objected to the presence of Qatari media and they wanted the microphones of the Qatar-based channels to be removed, including that of Al Jazeera. Later, Kuwait’s football association issued a statement saying that “a suitable solution had been reached for the upcoming press conference that will appease all parties”.

The ungentlemanly attitude of the siege countries is not limited to football. On Sunday, Qatar Chess Assocaition announced that national men’s and women’s teams could not compete in the World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships hosted by Saudi Arabia in Riyadh from today. According to the Qatar Chess Federation, the championship’s organisers have demanded that the players not display the Qatari flag at any stage during the competition. The Qatari players rejected the demand and they were denied visas. 

The move by the organisers was clearly unfair to the players and violation of international law. It is imperative that global intervention should be made to save sports from vested interests.