Iran’s brave and powerful gesture is a small wonder of the global woe of the World Cup 2022 World Cup

Well, this was unexpected. After the cold cold theatre The opening match of Qatar 2022Elite sport reimagined as a tyrant’s light show, something remarkable happened on a Monday afternoon in Doha.

As night falls over the vast, contracting Khalifa International Stadium (all those world Cup The structures are vast and swooping; Unless specifically otherwise said, suppose that England and Iran have produced something that seems paradoxically true, strangely warm, and suspiciously original.

Against all odds in this turbulent World Cup, a football match broke out. Although it is one through its own layers of intrigue, pathos and horror indeed.

First the fun part. England were excellent in their Group B opener: passionate, fluent and unimpressed against poor Iran. 6-2 win It is England’s most sensationally unrestrained start in any tournament ever. It almost feels a bit too much. constancy, seasons.

This is a World Cup like no other. For the last 12 years the Guardian has been reporting on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is gathered on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football home page for those who want to go deeper into the issues beyond the pitch.

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Qatar: Beyond Football


This is a World Cup like no other. For the past 12 years, the Guardian has been reporting on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is collected on our dedication Qatar: Beyond Football Home for those who want to dig deeper into issues off the pitch.

Guardian reporting goes beyond what happens on the pitch. Support our investigative journalism today.

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History tells us chubby and cautious things, and knitwear football is the way to go here. The 1966 World Cup started with a 0-0 draw with Uruguay, so the Guardian match report includes a whimsical digression about the writer’s desire to drift off to sleep in the second half.

While that England They produced something that felt a little overdone in these more controlled stages, tightening their grip in the first half of the bruiser, before descending the slopes in the second with their feet up on the handlebars. Jude Bellingham, at just 19, was sensationally good in central midfield, even against opposition who offered all the quality resistance to the beaded curtain. Bukayo Saka was prickly, sharp, and uncompromising.

The victory leaves England in a position to drive through this group and into the Pains to come. Better opponents than these will test this playful, spirited version, and indeed Southgate’s own will to retain a progressive midfield. Did not matter. This, too, looks like soccer.

David Beckham watches England against Iran in the World Cup
David Beckham watches England against Iran at the World Cup. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Because of course there were layers here too. Welcome to Qatar 2022, the World Cup of wider push-pull, you can almost feel the political actors on the side of the field turning their avatars around the turf with long wooden paddles.

Lots will be made FIFA banned England from wearing a knuckle armband Tolerance during this game. Harry Kane could face some criticism for failing to press the point and insist. Indeed, he deserves our sympathy.

This became a power play between England, FIFA and the Qatari leadership. The England players have been very good on these issues. Kane himself is an unaffected defender who is deeply committed to the Rainbow Campaign. It shouldn’t be like this. It just comes naturally, in a way that, say, celebrity popinjay David Beckham doesn’t. Kane, most certainly, is not part of the problem.

In fact, if this game is worth memorializing for anything, it might be the deaths of two people five years apart. Mohsa Amini was arrested by Iran’s morality police and died in hospital days later in September. Her crime was a violation of the country’s strict dress code. Her death was the spark for the ongoing popular uprising against the regime.

Zach Cox, an Englishman, died in January 2017 after falling 40 meters from rigging while installing a viewing platform. This happened here, in the same Khalifa stadium. The working conditions that caused his death have since been described by an English coroner as “chaotic, unprofessional, unthinking and utterly dangerous”.

Cox is important in other ways. His death is one of three — yes, really: three — that the Qatari government has been willing to admit as actually related to this massive vanity project. Other estimates put the death toll at more than 6,500. It can be said that there is a note of common importance to each of the deaths. And both feel like reminders that the real dichotomy, starkly present in this pharaonic sports show, is between the powerful and the powerless.

The morally invertebrate FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, gave a speech this week Try drawing the World Cup as a sign of a major struggle Between the bright New World and the corrupt old Europe, with Infantino himself Mandela at its center. Indeed, Infantino presided over a World Cup held under an oppressive nation that celebrated those who built its palaces, barely wagging a finger at the Iranian regime in the lead-up to their appearance here. This is not an eastern or western thing. It is a powerful thing.

With this in mind, perhaps the most important component of the afternoon was scenery Iranian players refuse to sing their national anthembrave and powerful gesture.

There have been some calls for England to boycott this game with the intent of exposing the dictatorship, but this is to misunderstand the dynamic.

The football team is not an extension of Iran’s leaders, in fact it is the opposite, seen as an amplifier of freedom, collective expression, and modernity. It is no coincidence that women have been banned from football stadiums since 1979. The regime fears this with its spontaneity and sense of collectivism.

Iran’s support kept the drums banging through the second half, even as England masked the scores. And this is indeed the strangest of all World Cups, a place to nod at the improvement of the diagonal positioning of England’s midfield; While also drinking in the joy of the assembled Iranians, a small note of victory in football’s broader battle against the enemy.

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