The 2022 World Cup in Qatar, conceived in corruption, built on the graves of thousands of migrant workers, and birthed with the weightiest of asterisks, will forever live in infamy. It should never have happened, but are we happy it did? In the words of a more famous author, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Both are true.
In truth, it was a dazzling tournament. Messi’s ultimate victory; Morocco’s run to the semifinal; Mbappe being Mbappe; the United States’ victory over Iran; Croatia’s shootout win over Brazil. Argentina’s shootout win over the Netherlands; Saudi Arabia’s win over Argentina; Japan’s Cinderella run; and many more amazing moments. On the flip side we beheld Germany’s collapse; Harry Kane’s missed penalty; Ronaldo’s continued fall from grace; the dreadful showing by CONCACAF teams; and Uruguay’s petulant exit. By and large, however, the play was breathtaking and it was a joy to watch.
Off the pitch, however, we were treated to a litany of gaffes and outrages. A $200 billion vanity project to build stadiums; the aforementioned deaths of thousands of workers; Qatar’s import of fake fans from Lebanon; a last-second prohibition of beer sales at games; FIFA’s ban of pride armbands and symbols; and the harassment and hatred directed at Israeli journalists. As if the theofascist repression of western values wasn’t enough, we also suffered the tragic and sudden deaths of American soccer journalist Grant Wahl and Qatari photojournalist Kahlid al-Misslam. And lest we forget, the Qataris use Al-Jazeera to broadcast hatred of Israel and the West around the world, ally themselves with the Taliban, and fervently do not believe in human rights. Oh, but at least they agreed to permit non-stop flights to Doha from Tel Aviv for a few weeks and allow the United States to operate a CENTCOM forward headquarters at Al Udeid Air Base. As Taylor Twellman once asked, “What are we doing?” What are we doing, indeed.
And it was a mixed bag for the Jews as well, as the four semi-finalists (and many other nations) were not known for their amazing treatment of us. France? It may be home to a half-million Jews, but it’s also notorious for its antisemitism and it’s far from safe to go to synagogue or Jewish schools without armed guards. Morocco? They may be the owners of a shiny new peace deal with Israel, but their team wields the Palestinian flag in their celebrations and their fans chant about the Nakba. Croatia? Their fans at Dynamo Zagreb games chant Nazi slogans and perform Nazi salutes and notorious antisemites party with the national team. Argentina? Site of the AMIA bombing and cover-up and a safe haven for Nazis after the Holocaust. While none of that is the best, at various times in this tournament I rooted for all four of those teams. It was easy to sportswash the antisemitism, but it was always there; every rooting moment at this World Cup came at a cost.
Luckily, it’s over, and sorry not sorry, it was the final, and the result that I had hoped for—Argentina against France, Messi versus Mbappe, the New World up against the Old World. The game featured goals galore, magical moments, and plenty of high drama, but of course it was ruined at the end by Messi being forced to awkwardly wear a bisht on the podium. Not to mention the fact that even though I was happy with the result, one of my daughters cried because she was rooting for Mbappe and France…once again proving the point that when all was said and done, Argentina may have won, but in truth we all lost.
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