The beautiful game? Qatar, football and freedom
The hosting of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has caused global outrage, with many calling for a boycott of the event. As we approach November, when the tournament will start, we decided to turn the lens to the question of football and freedoms. We set out with a simple question: “Is football bad for free speech?” And yet the answer was complex. Kaya Genc writes about Turkish President Reccep Erdogan buying up sporting clubs to stop the arenas being used for protest; China’s leader Xi Jinping force-feeds the nation’s kids a diet of soccer while Uyghur footballers playing for Chinese teams are paraded as examples of racial harmony. Against these negatives are stories of remarkable positivity. Permi Jhooti, the real-life inspiration for Bend It Like Beckham, says football gave her a voice to challenge the traditions she had been raised in. The same applied to Khalida Popal, the first captain of Afghanistan’s women’s team. We asked a leading philosopher, Julian Baggini, whether we should expect the world’s footballers to speak out against atrocities. His answer was no. We asked an activist from Qatar whether we should boycott the tournament. His answer was yes. Beyond the special report, we interview the activist Benedict Rogers, Martin Bright looks at the history of reggae in Poland, we report on "banned books clubs" in the USA and Flo Marks writes about the erasure of bisexual identities. Full Contents 


Julian Baggini
Philosopher and journalis
Khalida Popal
Afghan football player and director
Jihyun Park
British-North Korean Conservative Party politician