My Tuppenceworth on the World Cup

Well, two things to start with.

It was, I imagine, a source of some sorrow to my late father that neither of his sons was remotely interested in football. George Wyllie supported Stirling Albion and Scotland throughout his life but he was by nature a very positive individual so was not too badly affected. I was always happy to support the football teams of the schools in which I worked but, that apart, I only attended one football match in my life, between Hearts reserves and Rangers reserves, when I was about 10. I was cold and bored and we left at half time, after I had had the promised pie. So, in writing about this World Cup thingy in Qatar, I have to start by admitting that I have no interest at all in football. Still, I’ve always said that we shouldn’t criticise others for their interests; many people would not agree that pastry is more important than golf: who are any of us to judge?

Secondly, I have been to Qatar, and indeed for an international competition. This was the World Schools Debating Championships, held in Doha in February 2010. You may laugh, but the Qataris spent, I understand, about $5 million dollars on the event, in part, I suppose because ten months later they were bidding for The World Cup. To put this amount in perspective, it was something like 20 times as much as had ever been spent before or since. I went as an ‘international judge’; my air ticket and (very luxurious) accommodation was paid for; the food – from a Parisian caterer – was amazing; everyone we encountered was delightful, with the possible exception of the expatriate schoolteachers, who didn’t really want to talk.  The place itself lacked a soul, I thought; the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha is a beautiful building – my understanding then was that it contained only one thing from Qatar. Anyhow, I tell you all this because at no stage did I even think about wearing a rainbow hat, so if what follows seems a bit hypocritical then so be it. It was, to put it mildly, a very different event to the World Cup. 

There are two people I want to talk about. They are very very different people but I admire them both.

The first is David Beckham. Yes, he’s a footballer (and he is obviously fit in every sense) but I’ve always liked him, and his wife: two people who have obtained celebrity status through actual talent, rather than by simply existing, usually fatuously, in the way of many ‘celebrities’. Beckham described himself years ago as being ‘proud to be a gay icon’ and yes, he no doubt featured in the dreams of many a gay man. He is, apparently, being paid £150 million to just float around in Qatar as an ‘ambassador’. All of this seems to me mind-blowing. Does he need a vast wodge of cash? Did he think that, as this gay icon, it might seem a bit avaricious for him to be in a country where officials think that being gay is ‘damage in the mind’.  Did he think? Did he? Do others think for him? It all just seems very sad. He earned over £3 million last year. Sigh.

The other, a contrast, is Mark Drakeford. Mr Drakeford is probably the politician I admire most in the UK just now. He’s clever, modest, successful. He has integrity. He is not Suella. I can see that it would be difficult for him – should he stay or should he go? No doubt his advisors told him, rightly, that the voters of Wales were, across the piece, probably more interested in seeing him supporting their national team than in the plight of LGBT folk in Qatar. But, well, he’s always seemed very principled to me; maybe, like the German Foreign Minister, he’ll wear an armband in the VIP section while he watches Wales. Or maybe he won’t.

Then there’s all this faffing about concerning said armbands. The big boys said they would wear them then decided they wouldn’t because they might get a yellow card. ‘Don’t complain to the Headmaster, because you’ll maybe get a detention.’ Yeah yeah. Like it or not, these men, these big boys, are very important role models to millions of younger boys in this country (and in all countries, really). What’s the message exactly? And this on the same day that 5 people are killed in an LGBT club in Colorado Springs, with others being saved by the actions of an ex-military man there with his wife and daughter, and a drag queen who used their high heels to ‘stomp’ on the shooter. We are in a different world, one of both liberation and hatred; where do you stand, footballers, when others are performing acts of real heroism, which might get them killed rather than carded. It’s a f*****g game, let’s remember.

My final question – and please feel free to give a reply. Let’s just imagine that Scotland had qualified, would Nicola have gone? The first person I asked said ‘No, of course she wouldn’t have,’ then thought about it and said, ‘yes, she definitely would have.’ I would love to hear from the First Minister herself, but I harbour a teeny suspicion that she doesn’t follow my blog.



  1. First World Cup I have never watched. Everything about it is wrong. Will get the odd game here and there but by and large ignoring it. Nicola would go to the opening of an envelope. Like most politicians.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The frustration you express would be better targeted on FIFA and the (white, European) men who traded their votes for cash in selecting Qatar in the first place. A first world country, above or below the equator would have made armbands, boycotts and discrimination moot. FIFA deserves our ire and universal condemnation as well as relegation to the sidelines of international football.


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