“Clearly there is no boycott effect,” a ratings expert told AFP.
But the debate over the tournament’s moral dilemma hasn’t quite died down. Macron’s visit this week has reinvigorated some of his political opponents who have been calling for a boycott for months. On Wednesday, a group of leftist lawmakers observed a minute’s silence in mourning for migrant workers killed in Qatar ahead of the match. Unlike previous World Cups, major cities such as Paris, Bordeaux, Marseille and Strasbourg will not be showing the finals on big screens in expansive public viewing areas. Bars across Paris are expected to be packed and some fans may not be able to find a place to watch the game.
Defenders of the boycott point out that France may have a more moral obligation than other countries.French newspapers say investigators are looking into whether French officials, including former President Sarkozy, played a role in helping Qatar win the World Cup world reported last month. Macron’s government is facing growing calls to rein in Qatar’s influence in France following an explosive investigation this week into allegations that current and former EU officials took bribes from Qatar.
“It is impossible to have a public viewing area,” Pierre Rabadan, Paris’ deputy mayor for sports, said of the city’s decision not to hold public viewing events earlier this year. Labor conditions in Qatar, environmental concerns, and the fact that fans will be standing in the cold as the games are played in winter rather than in summer as usual.
However, of all the French cities that have chosen to boycott the World Cup, Paris’ move is the most puzzling, critics say.
The city’s mighty Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) football club is owned by Qatar Sports Investments. Anne Hidalgo, the leftist mayor of Paris, who unsuccessfully defeated Macron in the presidential election earlier this year, has not shied away from expressing her public admiration for the team when it appeared to serve her city’s interests in the past. support.
When Brazilian soccer star Neymar moved to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, Hidalgo’s government allowed the Eiffel Tower to be lit up in the club’s colours.
Bernard Caïazzo, a shareholder of French soccer club AS Saint-Étienne, said in October that “she relies heavily” on the team’s image.
In many respects, Paris’ boycott of the World Cup, hosted by the country that owns the city’s most valuable football club, encapsulates the dilemma faced by many national teams, cities and governments during this World Cup: Sending a stronger signal is often against their will. Interests.
For Saint-Nazaire mayor David Samzan in western France and Socialist Party member Hidalgo, a boycott of the World Cup is “unsustainable”.
In an interview, Samzun accused Qatar of “disrespecting human rights” and criticized this year’s World Cup as “environmental nonsense”. But he also took aim at the Paris boycott, calling it “hypocrisy” and suggesting that local officials should never have been in their position in the first place.
Unlike many other towns, Saint-Nazaire will present the World Cup final in a public viewing area on Sunday. The public broadcast of Wednesday’s semi-final has drawn more than 1,000 people to the fan area at the city’s former submarine base.
“The economic crisis, the energy crisis, the war on Europe’s doorstep. When we watch the news, it’s all very sad,” he said.
He added that the World Cup was a unique opportunity to “bring people together and find popular, happy moments – I think in France we really need that”.
For Henrik Selin, a Boston University researcher who focuses on global and regional politics, it’s an understandable position.
“There is a lot of evidence that FIFA is a thoroughly corrupt organization,” he said. “But I think once the game starts, it should be separated from the game.”
He added that the French city’s boycott appeared to be “more about domestic politics than international relations”. “I don’t think this will help improve Qatar’s or any other country’s human rights record.”
But tournament commentator Gruen is more optimistic about the possibility of change, largely because the role of French officials in awarding the World Cup to Qatar appears to be in the spotlight more than ever.
“Unfortunately, it’s too late” for this World Cup, he said. But it “puts an even greater moral obligation on France’s future”.