Despite some of the truly breathtaking football that we’ve seen on display at the World Cup in Qatar, the tournament cannot escape its own undertones of human rights issues, LGBTQ+ rights, and just how many migrants wound up losing their lives as a result of stadium and infrastructure construction for the tournament. For all of those reasons, matched with the fact of the timing of this World Cup coming right in the middle of domestic European seasons, has left many leaving an asterisk next to this tournament as a whole.
From a German footballing perspective, there was heightened scrutiny on both Qatar and FIFA when Die Mannschaft and Bayern Munich captain Manuel Neuer was pressured to not wear the “One Love” captain’s armband during any of their matches. As a result, the German national team even wound up losing major grocery chain sponsor REWE in the wake of the armband controversy, though they claim that had little to do with their dropping of sponsorship with the DFB. “We stand up for diversity - and football is also diversity. We live this position, and we defend it. FIFA’s scandalous attitude is absolutely unacceptable,” REWE Chief Executive Lionel Souque had said last month (Reuters).
REWE’s decision to cut ties with the German FussballBund highlighted some of the firmly held beliefs that the location of this World Cup should never have stood for a plethora of different reasons, and Bayern Munich CEO Oliver Kahn recently spoke about how football these days is becoming over-politicized. He’s fearful that the problem will only get worse at this rate.
“The politicization that takes place in soccer is becoming more extreme and greater. It’s overburdening the players, and I think it’s also slowly overburdening soccer. Soccer can no longer cope with everything that is brought to it from the outside,” Kahn recently explained in a podcast episode on OMR.com (via Az). With Kahn’s sentiment, it’s clear that he feels the pressure on players in an already high-pressure profession is mounting even higher and for so many different factors and variables, any of them are one sentence away from succumbing to cancel culture while under the microscope for what seems like a constant rate.
“Football can be a mosaic stone if it sets an example, but soccer cannot take on tasks and not take on the role that should actually be taken on by others,” Kahn continued, referencing the responsibilities that footballers and clubs have as much for off-pitch issues as they do on-pitch. FC Bayern is a strong leader for being very engaged in proactive in a bevy of a different off-pitch issues and causes, though they’re certainly not perfect, especially with fans’ long-standing aggravation at the sponsorship with Qatar Airways. Still, Bayern is vociferous in the sentiment that clubs should be heavily involved in the community, especially when it comes to sociopolitical matters.