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At Qatar’s World Cup, Where Politics and Pleasure Collide

Doha is a city of six-lane highways and unwalked sidewalks. There are compounds in every shade of beige. Away from the stadiums and the malls, there was never anybody around, which gave rise to an occasional feeling of going to the World Cup alone. One morning, I tried to find the Dutch team, which was training at a facility on the Qatar University campus. The campus, a vast maze of roads and checkpoints, was closed. (Qatar’s school and university semesters ended early, to make way for the tournament.) No one knew where the team was. Instead, I stopped by Caravan City, a trailer park for fans, where a windswept gravel plain was decorated here and there with simple stone mosaics of flowers. I bumped into Jaime Higuera, from New Jersey, who was staying in a trailer with his brother. The trailer was sweet enough, decorated with paintings of stags. Outside, there was not a soul to be seen. “I’m, like, ‘Are there other people staying here?’ ” Higuera said. “I don’t know.”

fifa awarded Qatar the rights to host the World Cup on December 2, 2010. On the same day, the organization’s executive committee voted to give Russia the 2018 edition. Of the twenty-two men who voted, fifteen were later indicted by American or Swiss prosecutors, banned from soccer, charged by fifa’s ethics committee, or expelled from the International Olympic Committee. External advisers pointed out that Qatar did not have a single suitable stadium, that it was a potential security risk, and that temperatures in the summer.

reach a hundred and ten degrees. (The tournament was originally scheduled for June and July.) In the following twelve years, the World Cup catalyzed a breathtaking construction boom in Qatar, which relied overwhelmingly on migrant workers from South Asia. Human-rights organizations reported deaths, poor workplace safety, and misery among unpaid workers, who were trapped in Qatar’s unequal immigration system. Gay and trans people expressed shock that the World Cup would be held in a country where homosexual activity and all forms of extramarital sex are punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment. “It’s not just sad, it’s sick,” Thomas Hitzlsperger, a gay former member of the German national team, told the Guardian.

On November 8th, twelve days before the tournament began, Sepp Blatter, the former president of fifa, admitted that Qatar had been “a bad choice.” His successor, Gianni Infantino, said that it would be the best World Cup ever. He wrote to the thirty-two teams taking part and asked them to focus on soccer, “without handing out moral lessons to the rest of the world.”

The day before the opening, Infantino addressed some four hundred reporters in an auditorium in Doha. “Today, I have very strong feelings,” he began. “Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel a migrant worker.” Infantino recalled his own struggles, as the child of Italian migrants in Switzerland. He was bullied because of something red on his hands. He asked his director of communications what these were called. “Freckles,” Infantino said. He berated the reporters for not writing more about disabled people. “Nobody cares,” he said. He mourned the deaths of African migrants at sea in the Mediterranean, attempting to reach a better life: “Where are we going? Where are we going with our way of working, guys?”

Whatever Infantino was trying to say, it didn’t make much more sense than the words of “Tukoh Taka,” the insanely catchy anthem of the tournament’s Fan Festival, which took place on a shadeless, concrete expanse, not far from Doha’s waterfront: “Some say ‘football,’ some say ‘soccer’ / Likkle shot go block-a (block-a).” Thank you, Nicki Minaj. Or a TikTok video that circulated showing some England fans, apparently from Liverpool, who were having a good time in Doha—just having a moosh, in their words—on the lookout for some beer, ending up in a rich Qatari’s house and playing with his pet lion.

Abandoned by politicians, who don’t like to offend Qatar, which is the world’s largest exporter of liquid natural gas, players and coaches had to juggle an impossible multiplex of sports, human rights, and authoritarian capitalism. Gregg Berhalter, the head coach of the United States team, addressed a press conference before the team’s first game, against Wales, like a marine colonel trying to explain an air strike on civilians. “We don’t necessarily reflect the view of Infantino,” he said. A group of European team captains, including England’s Harry Kane, who had planned to wear rainbow-colored “One Love” armbands, to show their support for L.G.B.T.Q. rights, changed their minds when they were threatened with yellow cards by fifa. The Iranian players showed their Western counterparts what actual courage looked like, by refusing to sing their national anthem, in solidarity with recent protests against the clerical regime.

The Qataris, to varying degrees, were terrified of the influx. Families installed security cameras and checked their window locks. In the days before the World Cup, social media filled with prayers and stoic messages for the test ahead. “I was, like, ‘This is very strange,’ because it’s the type of stuff you would say or tweet, like, literally, when you’re going to war,” a young Qatari, whom I will call Ali, told me. (Qatar ranks a hundred and nineteenth out of a hundred and eighty on Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index, below Ethiopia. In this article, single names are pseudonyms.) Two days before the opening ceremony and the first match, between Qatar and Ecuador, the authorities reneged on an agreement to allow beer to be served at the stadiums. On the day of the game, which Ali was preparing to attend with his siblings, his father announced that his youngest sister wasn’t going. “There’s this huge fear,” Ali said. “My parents always talked about: What if people don’t leave—they come here for the World Cup and just, like, start selling drugs or doing whatever?”

After the opening ceremony, I talked with a group of young Qatari men who were hanging out in the stadium concourse. Qatari society is considered the most conservative of the six nations of the Gulf: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar’s great rival, the United Arab Emirates. The men almost always wear national dress: an ironed white thobe and a white headdress kept in place by a black cord called an agal. Women cover their heads and wear the abaya, a long black gown. At a 2019 soccer match between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the Saudis teased the Qataris for coming as if dressed for a wedding. Mohammed Hussein, who was twenty-five, seemed preternaturally calm. “This is our culture,” he said. “This is us.” He had never been to a soccer match before.

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Matchday Guide: Boro vs Mariners

Take a read our matchday guide ahead of tomorrow’s game vs Grimsby Town at The Lamex Stadium in Sky Bet League Two…

Kicking off at 3pm in Sky Bet League Two, Steve Evans’ men know three points will be enough to secure promotion to League One when Paul Hurst’s Mariners visit SG2.

In front of a sold-out Lamex Stadium, the atmosphere is set to be electric as Boro aim for one more win to complete their season objective.

Saturday’s fixture is completely SOLD-OUT. No tickets will be sold on the day, so if you do not have a ticket, please do not travel.

For those with seat tickets, we recommend arrival at the stadium earlier than usual to ensure you are seated in your allocated seat.

Our North Stand and East Terrace are operating at 90% capacity due to restrictions placed by the Safety Advisory Group.

A Message to Supporters
At this crucial stage of the year, we must remind you in the interests of safety for everyone inside our stadium, that the pitch is for managers, players and match officials, while the stands are there for you to support the team.

Pitch incursions are dangerous and anyone who does encroach onto the playing surface will face strong sanctions that could include a ban from attending matches here at The Lamex Stadium, across the country and police action.

Furthermore, the use of pyrotechnics or smoke bombs at football grounds also carries an automatic ban and is something we take very seriously.

We appreciate your relentless support for our Club, but please do not put others at risk in doing so.

supporters are encouraged to stick around after Saturday’s final home league game of the season against Grimsby Town, in anticipation of the 2022/23 Supporters’ Association End of Season Awards.

As a reminder to supporters, these awards can only take place if the pitch is clear and safe for the players.

Club Shop & Ticket Office…
The Stevenage FC Club Shop is open at the earlier time of 11:30am on Saturday, closing at kick-off. The shop will also be open briefly at full-time.

Visit us in-store to collect Barrow AFC (A) tickets or purchase and browse our new leisurewear selection.

The North Stand Ticket Office, located on Broadhall Way, opens at midday and closes fifteen minutes after kick-off (3.15pm) for match ticket collections or queries. No tickets will be sold on the day.

Food & Drink…
The 76 Lounge

Open to home & away supporters from midday, at half-time for North Stand ticket holders and again for all from full-time to 8pm.

Supporters can also purchase hot food and drinks inside The 76 Lounge from 3.15pm which can be accessed via both side door of the North Stand.

Fans can move between The 76 Lounge and the tea bar area inside the North Stand to purchase food & drinks.

The Broadhall Suite

The Broadhall Suite is open to both sets of supporters from midday until kick-off, with a variety of drinks to choose from as well as a hot food matchday menu. This venue opens once again at full-time until 8pm.

Tea Bars

Tea bars around The Lamex Stadium are card only when purchasing food and drink around the ground.

How to Follow…
UK-based supporters can listen to Stevenage vs Grimsby Town with an iFollow Audio Match Pass, available to purchase for £2.50.

Overseas supporters can watch the action live with an iFollow Audio Match Pass, available for just £10.

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Match Preview: Stevenage vs Grimsby Town

Stevenage can secure promotion to Sky Bet League One tomorrow as they welcome Grimsby Town to a sold-out Lamex Stadium…

After Tuesday’s triumph in Swindon, Stevenage sit third in League Two and four points clear of Stockport County in fourth with just two games left to play.

Grimsby Town occupy eleventh place in the league table and, whilst they are unable to reach the play-off places, they will undoubtedly be looking to spoil Stevenage’s fun. The Mariners’ away form has been satisfactory this campaign, winning nine away league fixtures from twenty-two. Grimsby also had a successful FA Cup run, reaching the Quarter finals before being knocked out by Brighton and Hove Albion.

They have had a mixed bag of results recently, so will be unpredictable going into tomorrow’s match. On Tuesday, they picked up a 2-0 victory at home to Crewe Alexandra through goals by Gavan Holohan and Danilo Orsi. But three days prior, Grimsby suffered a 2-0 defeat away to Tranmere.

Paul Hurst is currently enjoying his second spell as Grimsby boss after spending 2011-2016 in charge of The Mariners. Last season, he led his side to National League Play-off Final glory, after beating Solihull Moors at The London Stadium. Hurst previously had managerial spells at Ipswich, Scunthorpe, Shrewsbury and Boston United.

Will Finnie has been appointed Match Referee for tomorrow’s match, with Scott Williams and Damith Bandara as Assistants, and Stephen Finch as Fourth Official.

Finnie has handed out ninety-five yellow cards and just one red in thirty matches this campaign.

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The Link Between Religicide and Violence Against Women

Violence against women has emerged as one of the hallmarks of religicide. Religious, civil society and business leaders must stop it in its tracks.

Involuntary sterilization and birth control in China. Honor killing in Iraq. State-sponsored rape in Myanmar. Forced marriage in Syria. Female genital mutilation in sub-Saharan Africa.

These are among the weapons used to control women today and throughout history – and likely among the many practices that will be denounced and discussed today on International Women’s Day. Yet an unrecognized form of human rights violation must be added to this litany of abuses in which women’s bodies are the battleground: religicide.

Religicide is the systematic, highly targeted effort to eradicate an entire religion, including its practices, adherents, sacred spaces, habitats and cultural heritage. Religicide plays out largely by controlling the reproductive choices of women, who they marry and who has access to their bodies.

Violence against women has emerged as one of the hallmarks of religicide. It has been practiced in China against Uyghur Muslims, in Iraq against Yazidis and in Myanmar against Rohingya Muslims. This abuse of women is a form of genocide-in-slow-motion.

Intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence against women, affecting around 641 million women and girls globally, according to the World Health Organization. Religicide fosters a form of such violence – rape, which is used as a weapon to wipe out religious identity. In religicide, women forcibly “married” to men of other faiths – or no faith – often must submit to those men or risk losing their lives along with their religious identities. Children from these marriages are under their father’s control. Women escaping religious enslavement would have to abandon their own children.

In China, the Communist Party is taking control of Uyghur women’s bodies through forced birth control in the form of implants, involuntary sterilizations and pills, according to The New York Times and other outlets. Some women say they’ve been forced into giving up their faith and marrying Han Chinese men. They’re free to get pregnant in these marriages – with babies through whom their Muslim faith will not likely be passed on.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch, women say they have been raped repeatedly in prison and subject to genital torture with electric prods. Outside of prison, according to the rights group, Uyghur women’s reproduction is monitored by the local government. There are harsh punishments for unauthorized pregnancies, with violators being sent to reeducation camps. Unless removed by a state-approved medical practitioner, those who take out intrauterine devices – even for medical reasons – are subject to fines and imprisonment.

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