A World Cup like the one in Qatar in 2022, according to Tim Sparv, can never occur again.
UEFA/Getty Images/Joseph Martinson
Tim Sparv, a former captain of Finland, expressed his hope that this month’s World Cup in Qatar will mark a turning point for a sport he believes is moving in a “dangerous” direction.
The former soccer player, who has since taken up activism, has been outspoken in her criticism of FIFA for giving the tournament to Qatar despite its human rights violations, including its treatment of migrant workers, laws pertaining to homosexuality, and attitudes toward women in society.
FIFA, a $5.6 billion company, has experienced decades-long bribery schemes that have sparked an investigation by the US Department of Justice. It’s a legacy that still weighs heavily on the organizing body’s decision to give Qatar the next 2022 tournament and Russia the 2018 competition.
Sparv has requested more from FIFA and wants major tournament hosting to “be an award for doing something nice” in the wake of rumors that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Greece may plan a combined bid to host the competition in 2030.
Sparv told CNN Sport that the World Cup should be an inclusive event. Everyone ought to feel welcomed. Everyone ought to feel secure, but that is not the case.
“The pattern is risky.” The direction we’re going in is not healthy, and I believe that everyone in a position of authority […] has a really, really significant role to play.
Qatar 2022 will kick off on November 20.
FIFA has advised nations taking part in the competition to concentrate on soccer and leave politics out of the game in light of the ongoing criticism of Qatar.
That, however, is not a choice for Sparv.
Since retiring, Sparv has traveled to Qatar with FIFPRO, the global association for professional footballers, and claims to have witnessed the detrimental effects the tournament is having on migrant workers.
In a perfect world, he continued, “we could trust our governing agencies to do what is best for us.”
However, that isn’t the case, which is why we require these frank outside opinions in order to ensure that our sport is moving in the right direction.
In order to prevent players from having to choose between their careers and perhaps adopting a political stance during the competition, Sparv says he also wants Qatar to act as a catalyst for governing bodies to place players at the forefront of decision-making.
He is aware of the recent improvements FIFA has made, including the establishment of the FIFA Human Rights Advisory Board, an independent advisory body made up of human and labor rights specialists. He is curious to see what effect this will have moving forward.
“I believe there has been a change in how we perceive the future of sports. “I hope that there will be better guidelines for how we will allow certain nations to submit World Cup bids,” he said.
“I believe there should be a set of requirements that must be satisfied before they are permitted to submit a bid.” To demand anything from Qatar when they have already received it is a little late.
“I believe the legacy is that each of us—fans, coaches, athletes, federations, and everyone engaged in sports—takes a position to say this can’t happen again,” said the speaker.
According to FIFA, a human rights policy based on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights has been created and integrated into its official status in recent years.
Waking up from soccer’s ‘bubble’
After leaving soccer in 2021, Sparv said it took him some time to “wake up” from its “bubble.”
He claims that as a young player, he was frequently unaware of the harmful factors affecting the game. It wasn’t until his Finnish teammate Riku Riski decided not to participate in a training camp in 2019 that Sparv began to educate himself about subjects other than soccer.
Since then, he has articulated his objection to the World Cup in Qatar in two articles for The Players’ Tribune, the most recent of which was published earlier this month.
The 35-year-old admits that he would have played for his nation if given the opportunity, but he rejects player boycotts of these competitions.
Although he acknowledges the hypocrisy of such a claim, he claims it offers a chance for players and teams to draw attention to the crucial issues.
Sparv stated, “Playing for a national team entails more than merely succeeding in football matches.”
“You have a really great chance to change people’s lives and bring awareness to issues that are much more important than winning football games.” It would be a bit of a waste to pass up that chance.
Optimistic of change
Although Sparv acknowledges that Qatar has made some improvements to its labor laws, he claims that these adjustments are frequently not put into practice and expresses concern for what will happen after the 2022 World Cup, when the world’s attention will certainly turn elsewhere.
Sparv has made the decision not to participate in the competition, which starts on November 20, but he claims he might change his mind if given the chance to do some significant work.
Overall, he is hopeful that change will occur and declares his commitment to using his platform to continue to put pressure on those who are making decisions regarding the future of the “beautiful game.”
“I’m extremely interested to see where we go from here,” he declared.
“I’ve given so many interviews about these subjects, just me personally, a nobody from Finland, under the glare of the media and journalists.
“That has never been the case before, so I believe we are moving in the right direction.”
The World Cup will be an “inclusive, safe tournament,” according to Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, and labor reforms have greatly improved the lives of thousands of workers.
It added in a statement to CNN that “everyone is welcome, regardless of ethnicity, origin, religion, gender, orientation, or nationality.”
We have also always been dedicated to making sure that this World Cup is remembered as a watershed moment in the history of our region and leaves a transformative social, human, economic, and environmental legacy.
“Like every country, there is always space for development,” it continued. We want to maintain and improve on the advancements made over the past ten years, so this work will continue long after the World Cup is done.