Infantino’s unhinged defence of FIFA
Off the pitch, in a bizarre defence of FIFA’s controversial decision to host the tournament in Qatar, FIFA president Gianni Infantino went on a 57-minute rant praising Qatar’s migrant worker policies and deflecting criticism of the human rights abuses that continue to unfold under FIFA’s supervision. In the speech, Infantino, often regarded as the most powerful man in sports, compared himself to a number of oppressed groups and labelled the criticism directed at FIFA as hypocritical.
Qatar’s early knockout
The tournament opened with a 2-0 win for Ecuador over Qatar. For many, this did not come as a surprise as Qatar had never qualified for the World Cup before 2022. All host countries are given automatic entry regardless of their ranking. This marked the first time that the host of a World Cup lost the opening game; after Qatar’s 3-1 loss to Senegal, it marked the earliest elimination for a host team in FIFA’s 92-year history.
Protests against the Iranian government
On Nov. 21, the Iranian football team refused to sing their country’s national anthem in a display of solidarity with the ongoing human rights protests in Iran. Despite this move, the team met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi prior to the World Cup. Fans wearing shirts with the name “Mahsa Amini”, the woman who was killed by the Islamic Regime’s morality police, were removed from the stadium. Some protesting fans said they had flags, t-shirts, and signs confiscated while others were shouted at and harassed by stadium workers.
Upset number one: Saudi Arabia beats Argentina
Saudi Arabia shocked the world with a 2-1 victory over Argentina on Nov. 22. This win astonished many fans as Argentina is ranked third in the world and was a pre-tournament favourite, while Saudi Arabia is ranked 51st. This ended Argentina’s three-year, 36-game winning streak but the team was able to avoid elimination with a 2-0 win over Mexico on Nov. 26.
Upset number two: Japan snubs Germany
Another pre-tournament favourite faced defeat on Nov. 23, when Japan claimed victory in a 2-1 win over Germany. Germany is a four-time World Cup champion, while Japan has never progressed past the round of 16 stage.
Hope for a new era of men’s soccer in Canada
While many eyes were drawn to Spain’s record breaking 7-0 win against Costa Rica, the Canadians took the field for the first time since 1986. In a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Belgium, the Canadian team still made its fans proud with their impressive performance. They had 14 shots on the Belgian goal in the opening 45 minutes alone and dominated play for much of the match, but unfortunately, were unable to capitalize on any of their opportunities. Canada became the second country to be eliminated from the World Cup, after getting defeated by Croatia 4-1 on Nov. 27. The match did have some bright spots, with Alphonso Davies scoring Canada’s first goal in five World Cup games within 67 seconds of play.
The first red card
On Nov. 25, Wales’ goalkeeper, Wayne Hennessey, crashed into Iranian striker, Mehdi Taremi, when he steamed out of his penalty area, missed an attempted clearance, and received the first red card of the tournament. Iran scored two goals after the ejection for a 2-0 victory.
The banning of ‘OneLove’ armbands
With the tournament taking place in Qatar, a country where homosexuality is illegal, rainbow armbands intended to show support to the LGBTQ+ community have been banned, alienating queer players and fans. The captains of seven European teams were planning on wearing armbands with the ‘OneLove’ logo but FIFA warned that they would receive an automatic yellow card if they did so. In protest, German players covered their mouths with their right hands in team pictures before their opening game to denounce how FIFA is silencing support of the LGBTQ+ community. Fans and media have also been subject to these restrictions, as a BBC cameraman and Welsh fans were refused entry for possessing items with the rainbow print. Although FIFA has continually insisted that all fans are allowed and encouraged to attend matches, it is clear that certain spectators are not welcome at the World Cup.