What Boycotting The World Cup Has Taught Me About Myself

I have been a staunch opponent of this World Cup. I have also been vocal in my opposition to owners from the likes of Qatar and Saudi Arabia coming in to buy Liverpool from Fenway Sports Group, as the latest rumour suggests might be the case. One of the most interesting things about the latter has been the number of tweets I’ve received from people engaging in all sorts of whatabouterry and false equivalence. I’ve even had one person tell me they don’t like my use of the term ‘false equivalence’. It suggests to me that a lot of people don’t understand what it means. If you say ‘I really hate apples’ and someone else says ‘Yeah, I really hate oranges, all fruit is terrible so you might as well eat some fruit’, that is false equivalence. Apples aren’t the same as oranges. Equally, the fact that we are sponsored by AXA isn’t the same as us being owned by a nation state that persecutes and tortures LGBTQ+ people and dismembers journalists.

Pointing out that that’s different doesn’t mean I think AXA are fine. If we were owned by AXA, I’d be a lot more clued up on why they’re a problematic company and I’d campaign against the ownership if I thought it was an issue. We’re not owned by them, however. Do I wish they weren’t one of the club’s main sponsors? Yes, reading into them, I do. I do not, though, think it’s hypocritical to say that talking about them in relation to Qatar and Saudi Arabia is false equivalence. The ‘all billionaires are bad’ argument isn’t even one that is proven, it’s just full of assumptions. ‘To have become a billionaire, they must have done some appalling things’ appears to be the argument. Maybe most billionaires have; we don’t know one way or the other. What we do know is that LGBTQ+ people are persecuted in both Saudi Arabia and Qatar. That is just the tip of the iceberg. But it’s enough for me.

I Haven’t Missed It As Much As I Thought I Would

I haven’t watched a minute of the World Cup. The fact that I’ve still been using social media during the last few weeks means that I’ve still been seeing what’s been going on. I know that Jordan Henderson scored from a Jude Bellingham assist against Senegal, for example, and that England will be playing France in the quarter-final. Such is the nature of the modern world, even if I’d come off social media I’d still have been informed of what’s happening in Qatar thanks to the news channels. Yet, much to the chagrin of many, I’ve not watched any of the matches myself, nor have I been seeking out the results from matches. Many seem dumbfounded by my decision, almost trying to convince me that I’m wrong to be boycotting it. The truth is that this World Cup was the straw that broke the camels back. It isn’t just that Qatar almost certainly bribed people to be awarded the competition, nor is it just the persecution of minorities, but all of it.

The thing that has surprised me the most is that I haven’t really cared. It helps that I’m not invested in England, of course, or international football in general, but there’s definitely also the reality that I would normally tune in to watch whatever match was on the television during previous World Cups or European Championships. I would definitely watch some of the knockout stages, but I haven’t missed tuning into this one at all. I do wonder whether there is an extent to which I’ve grown up in recent years and that is playing a part. I’m also intrigued to know how much my multiple sclerosis is making a difference, given that I don’t have the same capacity to concentrate or watch football as I used to have. Realistically, though, I’m just not bothered. The sooner this is over and the proper football can return, the happier I will be. I thought I’d be desperate for any sort of football fix, but I just haven’t been and that has genuinely surprised me. I expected to struggle, but I’ve been fine.

I’ve Got My Life Back

My wife and I have a shared diary. I have every Liverpool fixture in it so that she knows when I’m going to be busy. If I get a ticket for the match, that goes in there too so that she’s aware that I’ll be out of the house for longer. When someone asks if we’re available to do something, I need to check the diary to see if there’s a game on that will stop me from taking part. Over the past couple of weeks, though, I’ve been able to not worry. I’ve always wondered what people that don’t like football do with their lives and, right now, I’m getting a taste of it. Don’t get me wrong, I miss the Reds. I can’t wait until they’re back in action and I’m able to enjoy every second of them. The other day, though, my cousin said that she’s having a family thing at her’s on Boxing Day and when I looked in the diary, I saw that Liverpool are playing Aston Villa and felt a little bit disappointed that I won’t be able to commit fully to spending time with my family, always having one eye on the game.

That, of course, is the nature of being a football fan. Those that listen to my show What Football Means To Me on The Anfield Wrap will have heard Ste Armstrong talk about how he has stopped going to Manchester United matches, having followed the club home and away for several decades. When I was speaking to him, I wondered if I would be able to walk away in the same manner, even though I don’t attend anywhere near as many matches as he did. If Saudi Arabian or Qatari owners come in, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Having seen how I’ve coped without football when it’s what everyone else seems to be talking about right now, I feel a little bit more confident that I’ll be able to do it. I am aware how futile my boycotting of the World Cup is. I know turning away from Liverpool if sports-washing owners come in will be equally pointless. I have my own morals, though, and that is something I can’t walk away from.

  1. December 5, 2022
  2. December 5, 2022

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