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FIFA World Cup: angry fans slam BBC for not showing opening ceremony

A general view outside the BBC Studios on 27 May 2021 in England [Nathan Stirk/Getty Images]
A general view outside the BBC Studios on 27 May 2021 in England [Nathan Stirk/Getty Images]

Thousands of football fans have slammed the BBC over its decision not to air the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup which started in Qatar yesterday. For the first time in its history, the British broadcaster ignored the spectacle in favour of a political broadcast aimed at Qatar that has outraged football fans around the world.

The opening ceremony and first match of the tournament were held at Al-Bayt Stadium in Doha. With a reputation for offering unmatched coverage of what is the largest sporting event in the world, millions of licence payers tuned in to watch on the BBC. The ceremony featured world famous artists and hundreds of other performers. No expense was spared on the 30-minute show celebrating inclusivity before the opening fixture between Qatar and Ecuador.

BBC viewers however did not see any of that. Instead, fans were left bitter and angry as presenters subjected them to what many have slammed as "virtue signalling" for a good part of an hour. "It's the most controversial World Cup in history and a ball hasn't even been kicked," said Match of the Day host Gary Lineker as he welcomed viewers to the start of the national broadcaster's coverage on BBC One.

Linker and his co-presenters expressed concerns over corruption in FIFA, Qatar's treatment of homosexuals and migrant workers, and the environmental damage caused by the tournament being hosted in the gas rich Gulf State.

"Outrageously disrespectful to Qatar that the BBC didn't broadcast the World Cup opening ceremony, and instead put out more virtue-signalling guff about how awful it is," tweeted Piers Morgan. "If they're that appalled, they should bring home their vast army of employees and spare us this absurd hypocrisy." His comments echoed other voices on social media.

Disgruntled football fans pointed to the BBC's coverage of the Beijing Winter Olympics only a few months ago without any protests over China's alleged genocide of Uyghur Muslims. The BBC also aired the opening ceremony of the 2018 World Cup in Russia even though President Vladimir Putin had occupied Crimea and parts of Ukraine since 2014.

READ: Qatar chose to avoid domestic unrest over Western World Cup demands

Fans also highlighted the BBC's failure to highlight Israel's human rights abuses and its refusal to report on the crime of apartheid imposed on Palestinians by the colonial-occupation state. In August, the BBC came under fire for sanitising Israel's brutal occupation and a few months earlier it completely ignored the racist and provocative chants of far-right Israeli settlers after Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed by an occupation army sniper.

In the build-up to the opening ceremony, Qatar has faced a barrage of attacks from mainly Western countries, including criticism that have been denounced as openly racist. A French newspaper, for example, published a cartoon depicting Qatar's national football team as "terrorists", sparking outrage across the small Gulf state.

While acknowledging that there are serious issues in Qatar which need to be addressed, many have questioned the intention of the western media. "Is this debate truly about migrant workers' rights and human rights, or is it that European countries and Western pundits, who view themselves as the traditional gatekeepers of global soccer, can't stomach the idea that an Arab Middle Eastern country will host such a venerable event?" asked MSNBC presenter Ayman Mohyeldin.

Mohyeldin suggested that Europeans should themselves set a better example if they are serious about the plight of migrants. "Instead of stopping at accusations against Qatar, Europeans and Americans should set a better example of how migrants in their own countries are treated." He cited a report by way of example which revealed that 27 people had died while Britain and France argued about who should rescue migrants from a sinking vessel.

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Europe & RussiaFIFAInternational OrganisationsMiddle EastNewsQatarUK
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