We were mistaken to think that Palestine represents the central issue for all Arabs. Such language suggests that Palestine is an external subject to be compared to other collective struggles that consume most Arabs, everywhere. The ongoing celebration of Palestine and the Palestinian flag at the Qatar World Cup 2022 by millions of Arab fans compels us to rethink our earlier assumptions about the Arab people’s relationship with Palestine. The starting point for my argument is Rome, Italy, not Doha, Qatar. In August 2021, I attended a friendly football match between Morocco’s Raja Casablanca and the Italian AS Roma. Thousands of Moroccan fans accompanied their team. Although fewer in number, their matching outfits, songs, chants and group dances in the stands made them more visible than the rest.
Israeli reporters covering the FIFA World Cup in Qatar have complained of facing “humiliation” and “hate” because soccer fans from around the world refuse to speak to them. In dozens of videos shared on social media, soccer fans are seen turning their backs on Israeli reporters once they find out that they come from the apartheid state. Arab fanatics, in particular, often take the opportunity to call for the liberation of Palestine and an end to Israeli apartheid. The situation has even forced Israeli reporters to awkwardly pretend they are from a different country. “We feel hated, surrounded by hostility and unwanted,” Raz Shechnik, media and music correspondent for Israeli news outlet Yedioth Ahronoth, wrote in an opinion piece published Nov. 27. “After a while, we decided to claim that we were Ecuadorian when someone asked us where we were from,” Shechnik continues, stating that the experience has definitely not been “fun.”
In a full-throated defense of 2022 World Cup host nation Qatar, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a press conference on Saturday, “Today I feel Qatari, today I feel Arab, today I feel African, today I feel gay, today I feel disabled, today I feel a migrant worker…because I know what it means to be discriminated, to be bullied.” Criticizing the West, and Europe in particular, for migration policies, corporate profiteering off of Gulf oil, and “what we Europeans have been doing for 3,000 years around the world,” Infantino tried to draw attention away from multiple controversies plaguing the 2022 World Cup. FIFA, the governing body for world soccer, is expected to bring in $6.5 billion in revenue from this year’s World Cup, a 25% jump from the 2018 games. Infantino himself made $3.2 million in 2019 alone.
As the World Cup begins, Samidoun is part of a growing global campaign to demand FIFA take action to hold the Israeli occupation accountable for its ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people, including Palestinian sport. The campaign also aims to support anti-normalization efforts in support and boost sports boycott campaigns as well as #BoycottPuma and related actions in the sports world. It’s time to score a goal for Palestine! Israel has violated the principles of FIFA in a variety of ways that would normally warrant disciplinary actions and even a suspension of its membership. However, the politics of FIFA have prevented the organization in the past from taking such action. Its internal by-laws have even been amended to make it more difficult for the Palestine Football Association (PFA) to demand such action.
Since early last Thursday, in what has seemingly finally brought an end to the two-year long COVID-19 corporate media narrative, a Russian military intervention in neighbouring Ukraine, launched in response to almost nine years of NATO provocations following Kiev coming under the rule of the successive pro-Western governments of Petro Poroshenko and Voldymyr Zelensky since the 2014 Euromaidan colour revolution, has dominated media headlines worldwide –with Moscow coming in for levels of global condemnation not seen since the Cold War. US President Joe Biden, in tandem with the other G7 members, immediately announced wide-ranging sanctions targeting the Russian economy...
In preparation for hosting the World Cup, the Brazilian government spent the outrageous amount of $10 billion and displaced as many as 250,000 people–evicting the poorest from their homes and sweeping up homeless from the streets. Since the World Cup started, thousands have protested lavishing public resources on a sports event while poverty is rampant. Journalists Tim Eastman and Shay Horse have been in Brazil covering the protests and events outside the sports arenas. We had the opportunity to visit a group of families who were victims of these forced removals. One hundred days ago, military police evicted 160 families of the Telerj area of Rio de Janeiro from their homes. They lived in an area which had been gifted by the government of Dilma Roussef. For a short time, they occupied City Hall but were violently ejected by military police. Since then, they have traveled around and resettled in various areas of Rio, wandering from place to place without a home.
On June 29, in Rio de Janeiro a silent march took place to call attention to the suppression of protests, and deaths in Favelas by the UPP (Pacifying Police Unit). As with any other march this one also made clear the angst in Brasil was against FIFA and the World Cup, not Soccer. To portray the censorship they have experienced protesters wore gags around their mouths. To exhibit the loss of life from efforts to pacify Favelas, protesters carried signs with the names of activists and "-1" Some protesters also carried signs with another idea for how to pacify favelas... "Mais educação. Menos caveirão." "More education. Less military police."
UNIMED, the largest system of medical co-operatives in the world and also the largest healthcare network in Brazil, is the official provider of emergency medical services at this year’s World Cup. Throughout the event that runs from 12 June to 13 July, UNIMED will be providing medical services to all athletes and technical staff of all delegations taking part in the World Cup. “We have an infrastructure across the country, with centres and hospitals and we will be responding to all necessities and requirements directly and individually. We are responsible for the health of all athletes, teams, officials and technical staff that will be involved in the World Cup,” explained Eudes de Freitas Aquino, President of UNIMED. Founded in 1967 by Doctor Edmundo Castillo, UNIMED consists today of 354 medical co-operatives, which offer health services to more than 20 million customers. It has over 109,000 active physicians and 106 hospitals, as well as emergency care, laboratories and ambulances. Dr Eudes de Freitas Aquino thinks the success of UNIMED was determined by the co-operative structure of the organisation.
On June 12, Brazilian police fired tear gas on a group of 50 unarmed marchers blocking a highway leading to the World Cup arena in São Paulo. On June 15 in Rio de Janeiro another 200 marchers faced floods of tear gas and stun grenades in their approach to Maracana stadium. Armed with an arsenal of less lethal weapons and employing tactics imported from U.S. SWAT teams in the early 2000s, police clad in riot gear are deploying forceful tactics, wielding batons and releasing chemical agents at close range. In Brazil, this style of protest policing is not only a common form of political control, but also a booming business. World Cup and related economic protests occurring across the country are bringing in big profits for Rio-based company Condor Nonlethal Technologies. As part of the World Cup’s massive security budget Condor scored a $22-million contract, providing tear gas, rubber bullets, Tasers and light and sound grenades to police and private security forces. Selling riot control and public order weaponry to law enforcement, military and United Nation buyers, Condor’s business has grown by over 30 percent in the past five years.
UPDATE: After a day of being under arrest by the police of Belo Horizonte, and after her case became known to international audiences, the social media journalist was released, together with two other activists. See more here. Translated press release from Midia NINJA Karinny de Magalhães correspondent from Midia NINJA was arrested while working as a journalist covering the protests against the World Cup in the city of Belo Horizonte. While live streaming the protest “Copa sem povo, tô na rua de novo” Karinny suffered a long series of outrages by the Military Police. In the live stream we saw a frame where she claimed she had been assaulted. The transmission was disconnected and Karinny stopped filming. After being held for over an hour inside a police car, she was taken in secret to a police barracks where she was beaten by five policemen into unconsciousness. She was then taken to the 6th Regional Police Civilian Police – North West, where she was held overnight, and testified that tests were performed corpus delicti. Karinny is accused of being part of the group that flipped a Civil Police vehicle during the protests. Another video shows the entire event and proves the accusations against her are false. Two other protesters were also arrested.
According to Brazilian news site G1, a protest took place at the opening ceremony, but the TV cameras ignored it. The site reports that Werá Jeguaka Mirim was one of three children who released white doves just before the kick-off of the first game, between Brazil and Croatia. As he left the field, he opened a banner calling for new boundaries for Brazil’s indigenous lands. Pictures of the boy’s protest were posted on the Comissão Guarani Yvyrupa (CGY) Facebook page. The Guarani are an indigenous people from South America’s interior. The CGY describes itself as “an autonomous political organization that brings together the Guarani people of the villages located in the South and Southeast of Brazil in the common struggle for land.” There is currently a new law called PEC 215 being debated in the Brazilian legislature. It would transfer the power to demarcate their ancestral lands from the federal government to Congress, and has caused protests.
Riot police fired percussion grenades and teargas at anti-World Cup protesters in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro on Thursday as the countdown to the kick-off was marred by demonstrations in at least 10 Brazilian cities. Just hours before the opening ceremony at the Itaquerão stadium, about 100 protesters started fires and threw rocks at police in an apparent attempt to block a road leading to the venue. The confrontation led to at least one arrest and five injuries, including a suspected broken arm suffered by a CNN producer who was hit by a teargas canister. Amnesty International accused the police of using excess force. "The Brazilian authorities must, without delay, investigate why excessive force was used against peaceful protesters, bring those responsible to justice and ensure this does not happen again," said Atila Roque, director of Amnesty International Brazil. The "Our Cup is on the Street" protests are targeting the high cost of the stadiums, corruption, police brutality and evictions. Similar demonstrations have been organised via social networks in 100 cities, including several that host World Cup games, such as Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Porto Alegre and Recife.
Today people of Rio de Janeiro, residing in the area of the Maracanã World Cup stadium, woke up to find out that missiles have been placed on the roofs of their bloc of flats. Not just missiles, but actual military bases have been set up over night on their homes. The Navy of Brazil are “positioning airspace surveillance and air defense equipment” on the terrace of a building with 15 floors and 90 apartments in Tijuca north of Rio, 600 meters from the Maracanã. They want to “defend the anti-aircraft Maracana.” Residents of the building Chateau Grenoble have noticed army soldiers on their roof. Retired economist Almir Gomes Cardoso, 72, says he was shocked to see the marines on the roof. “They (the military) confirmed that they will install a missile on the roof,” said Cardoso, who lives on the top floor. Just like that. Nobody asked him anything: “The landlady did not report anything. It was a fait accompli.” The military say the missiles are meant to defend the “airspace” on an area of 13 to 15 km around the stadium Maracana, as well as around the other 12 stadiums where the games for the cup will take place. But the reality is that from the roofs of the building they will be actually spying on and monitoring protestors on the ground – this is their main concern. A state army of 200,000 uniforms, a third of which are army soldiers, are deployed for FIFA’s most expensive show ever — and the biggest theft from Brazil’s public budgets: -> ”A gigantic theft of public resources would take place. For us that was clear from the beginning. But we had not anticipated that the fraud would be as big as he is now! Beginning it was said that the Copa (World Cup) would make do with a budget of 2 billion U.S. dollars. Now, over 10 billion U.S. dollars spent been! That’s why the people are outraged!
This article is excerpted from Futebol Nation: The Story of Brazil Through Soccer by David Goldblatt, out now from Nation Books. The Confederations Cup began life as a PR exercise for the House of Saud. Having built one of the most opulent but underused stadiums in the world—the King Fahd—the Saudis created the tournament in 1992 to ﬁll up the schedule and play soft-power football politics. The cup pitted their own national side against a selection of leading international teams invited on an all-expenses-paid jaunt. The King Fahd Cup was held again in 1995 and 1997, with the Saudis attempting to invite all the sides that had won their continental competitions (like the European Championships and the Asian Cup). In 2001, the tournament passed into the hands of FIFA, who have since staged it on a four-year basis as a warm-up and dress rehearsal for the World Cup. Korea-Japan 2001, Germany 2005, and South Africa 2009 all passed without comment or much incident. Brazil 2013 was meant to be the same. Through the autumn of 2012 and into early 2013 there were small but visible signs of discontent. The Comitê Popular da Copa e Olimpíadas, which had cut its teeth as the main opposition to the Pan American Games, maintained its regular protests in Rio and other cities over the wastefulness and corruption of the World Cup infrastructure program, attracting 3,000 to 4,000 people to their anti-privatization marches on the Maracanã.
The Brazilian government has launched one of the largest Military operations since the 1950s. Over 200,000 troops have been deployed all over Brazil in preparation for the World Cup. Meanwhile, around Salvador's Fonte Nova stadium, security forces have been tasked with forcibly removing the homeless. As workers continue to intensify their actions, Amnesty International warns the Brazilian government's response to protests and strikes could lead to indiscriminate violence.