The biggest show on earth in Qatar has been beset by protests. The history of the World Cup shows controversy has followed it just as a striker chases the ball.
TOI takes a look at the issues that dogged the tournament over the years…
Uruguay refuses to defend (1934): The first controversy in the World Cup came in the second edition in 1934 when defending champions Uruguay boycotted the tournament held in Italy. They were not happy with that very few European teams competed in the 1930 Cup and decided they would not travel to Europe. They are the only World Cup winners who did not defend their title.
Black shirts of Fascists (1938): Inspired by Adolf Hitler‘s show of Nazi propaganda at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini decided to use the 1938 World Cup in France to showcase his country’s supremacy. The team’s away outfit was all-black, the Fascist Party‘s colours, and what caused a huge controversy was the players making fascist salutes before kickoff. Despite huge protests, the Italians managed to defend the title.
Africa‘s statement (1966): The 1966 Cup is remembered for England’s triumph and Eusebio’s scintillating display, but it remains the only tournament which was boycotted by an entire continent – Africa. The protest was against a 1964 FIFA ruling that required the three second-round winners from Africa to enter a play-off round against the winners of the Asian zone in order to qualify for the Cup. The Confederation of African Football felt unfairly represented. They wanted at least one African team to have an assured place in the tournament, which happened in 1970.
Videla’s World Cup (1978): The edition is probably the first example of FIFA getting involved in ‘sportswashing’. Argentina was ruled by a military junta led by dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, who was accused of getting thousands killed. Thus, the Argentinian exiles, who were fighting the junta, called for a boycott. The tournament went ahead as planned but the voices of the protestors was heard worldwide.
Nuremberg protest (2006): This edition was held in Germany. There were calls to expel Iran from the tournament over comments from then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Israel should be moved to Europe. The then German Chancellor, Angel Merkel, decided against the ban but several people protested on the streets of Nuremberg ahead of Iran’s group game with Mexico.
Brazil’s spending spree (2014): Protests broke out in Brazil in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. People were angry at the huge amounts spent by the government on preparations for the World Cup and the Olympics, which Rio hosted in 2016. The common slogans of protest were: ‘There won’t be a Cup’ and ‘FIFA go home’. Police clashed with protesters in these two cities and several other host cities, and hundreds were injured.

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By Dipak

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