Denmark have announced they will wear messages on their training shirts highlighting the human rights abuses of migrant workers in Qatar, yet their hollow protests see them aiming to be crowned World Cup virtue-signaling kings.
Known as the DBU, the Danish FA revealed this week that its two training kit sponsors will yield so that blurbs critical of the Qatari regime can be shown while they prepare for games at the 2022 football showpiece, in an empty gesture aimed solely at cleaning their consciences.
Furthermore, the Danes will minimize the number of trips they take to the country before the tournament is held in winter next year, as well as avoid any commercial activities that promote the hosts’ events.
Unbeaten in qualifying until a 2-0 loss to Scotland on Monday where they had nothing to gain, Denmark had already become the second European nation to book their tickets to Qatar following a 1-0 victory over Austria that was their eighth consecutive victory in Group F.
But rather than heading to the Middle East with a few T-shirt slogans, a stronger gesture would be not turning up altogether for international football’s flagship tournament.
“The DBU has long been strongly critical of the World Cup in Qatar,” claimed chief executive officer Jakob Jensen when announcing the initiatives. “But now we are further intensifying our efforts and critical dialogue so that we take advantage of the fact that we have qualified to work for more change in the country.
“In addition, we have long drawn attention to the challenges facing FIFA and Qatar, and we will continue to do so.”
There are six bullet points in total on their list, which also includes the magnificently vacuous pledge to “continuously conduct due diligence on our choice of hotel and other services in Qatar to ensure that applicable labor rights are respected,” whatever that is meant to mean.
Denmark’s players will wear human rights messages on their training kit at next year’s World Cup in Qatar as part of a series of 'critical initiatives' around the tournament. pic.twitter.com/RI0TivmpVO
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 18, 2021
Hollow phrases aside, you can’t help feeling that the horse has already bolted, as Germany’s Joshua Kimmich pointed out earlier this year. Now a social pariah for his stance on Covid vaccinations, the Bayern Munich midfielder said that protests in March during World Cup qualifiers and calls to boycott Qatar were “10 years too late”.
“It wasn’t allocated this year, but a couple of years ago. One should have thought about boycotting back then,” Kimmich astutely noted.
A surprise package at this year’s Euros, the Danish are evidently wary of backing out entirely from Qatar. With a blend of experienced veterans and budding prospects, they are also led by a manager, Kasper Hjulmand, who knows how to get the best from them. They may fancy their chances of causing an upset in Qatar and going far in a major competition once more, hence the reluctance to scrap their involvement altogether despite their taking of the moral high ground.
Even if they don’t end up doing all that much on the football pitch in Qatar, they’ll at least have a good go at topping the social justice charts along the way – even if their well-meaning intentions feel like nothing more than futile lip service.
🚨⚽️ | NEW: The Danish FA have released a statement of Denmark's initiatives for the Qatar World Cup pic.twitter.com/psptr4nrno
— Football For All (@FootballlForAll) November 17, 2021
We should brace for a lot more of this from other participant countries too as we get closer to the tournament. Empty protests and mealy-mouthed speeches will be made, but as Kimmich’s Germany teammate Toni Kroos has also highlighted, even action as extreme as a boycott would arguably be worthless in the grand scheme of things.
“What is the point of boycotting such a tournament? Is it really the case that something will improve decisively there? Will the working conditions [of migrant workers] change? I think not,” the Real Madrid midfielder has previously asked.
“That means that a boycott would not change much in the working situations. To award the tournament to them, I think it’s wrong. But 10 years have passed since.
“Football can and must draw attention to problems, especially with its reach. But football also is not solely responsible for making everything better in the world.”
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) March 25, 2021
This is true, unlike the assumption that wearing T-shirts will transform Qatar into becoming some free-thinking, liberal Western European beacon once the World Cup is done and dusted. The alleged arrest of Qatari former deputy communications director Abdullah Ibhais over his opposition to how organizers are attempting to distance themselves from a strike by migrant workers shows that just over a year from kick-off, Qatar still doesn’t seem all that bothered about changing its ways – just as an Amnesty International report asserted this week.
Not just 10 years too late, but after the alleged deaths of thousands of migrant workers, Denmark’s flimsy opposition while carrying on regardless in Qatar merely reeks of an effort to cleanse their own consciences.
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