2022: A disastrous year for football


It’s been another fault-free 12 months for the football authorities, and no key administrators have lost their jobs. The international event took place despite preparations to provide body counts in the thousands, according to independent sources.

All this suggests that FIFA, the governing body of world football, its European counterpart UEFA, the African Commonwealth CAF, and perhaps all other organizations that run our game, serve in whose interests. You will wonder if you are.

Arguably, it’s not the fans, it’s not the average hardworking human being who delivers a global spectacle that makes men like FIFA president Gianni Infantino rich and famous.

The year started with a bang in Cameroon. The African Cup of Nations’ newest stadium was the site of an accident in which eight people were killed and 38 injured on 24 January.

Initially, the press explained that the cause was the stampede. Because even if you don’t know what people are running from, it’s easiest to conclude if people were seen running from a distance.

Only a fair and thorough investigation revealed what really happened.

Two months before the tournament, the African Football Confederation (CAF) had doubts about the venue, the 60,000-capacity Orembe Stadium in Yaoundé. General Secretary Beron Mosengo Omba sent a letter to Cameroon’s Minister of Sports, Narcisse Muer his duo, who also registered “serious concerns about the organization of the tournament”.

The duo later spoke of a “deplorable incident” in which a fan died “because of his passion for football”. According to Combi, it was “a fatal incident caused by the large and slow influx of supporters into the stadium”.

However, Kombi did not mention the warning from Cameroon.

Eight weeks ago, CAF became concerned about the speed of development at the stadium and asked Kombi and the venue’s construction company to share their work plans. Orembe didn’t even have a manager at that point.

As of just 54 days before the opening ceremony, the CAF was still unhappy with what it saw, citing perimeter fences as one of several outstanding issues.

Delivery was promised by November 30th last year, in preparation for handover to CAF four days later, but the new date for the ‘exterior’ competition has been set for a week later.

According to CAF, the handover failed due to a “technical” hitch. A day after the deadline, at least one billboard was erected outside the stadium by Canadian construction company McGill, and fined 10 million Central African CFA francs (£12,669 at the time) for taking pictures without taking pictures. People were threatened with having their mobile phones and cameras confiscated. permission.

Even on December 20, CAF president and South African mining billionaire Patrice Motsepe was still concerned. After conducting his own research, he cited vague “unresolved issues” and nevertheless demanded that “there must be a kickoff” by the opening day of the tournament on January 9. did.

Motsepe suggests the omicron variant of COVID-19 has put more pressure on workers ahead of the start of the tournament, which was postponed from a year earlier due to the pandemic, ensuring lower safety standards in Cameroon. acknowledged his responsibility. Rest of the World”.

Other causes of the disruption were not mentioned, such as workers missing paydays and leaving in the aftermath of the disaster. This prevented the project from delaying any further delays.

The entrance to Yaoundé’s Orembe Stadium where eight people were killed in the clashes (Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images)

For the organizers, the show had to go on, and it was up to the survivors to spell out the ramifications of all this.

Witnesses said there was indeed a large crowd outside the perimeter of the stadium before the round of 16 match between the host nation and Comoros, but this was due to build-up caused by poor organisation. There was a similar situation in Cameroon’s previous group stage match, but no lesson was learned.

Once the crowd passed the first checkpoint, minimal stewards ushered hundreds, possibly thousands, of fans to the same gates. This buckled under the pressure of the people. There was no funneling system in place and few signposts directing supporters elsewhere.

Four months later, a comparable sequence of events may have led to similar results in Paris.

Preparations for the Champions League final were rushed again after the host city was changed from St. Petersburg after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

On May 28, in the executive lounge of the alternative venue, the Stade de France, Motsepe’s UEFA counterpart Alexander Ceferin told Liverpool Metro mayor Steve Rotherham that UEFA had just three staff members. He said he “killed himself” to reach the final on the moon.

Rothelam had been robbed outside the ground where there had been riots.

As in Yaounde, thousands of people were waiting to enter. As with Yaounde, everyone was at the same place and on time. Like Yaounde, it lacked signposts and stewardship. As was the case with Yaoundé, fans were the first to take the blame before reality came to light.

It’s a miracle that no one died in north Paris that day, but it was only the collective memory of Liverpool supporters that saved their lives.

Part of the stadium’s southwestern row was held in Hillsboro in 1989, when 97 supporters died due to similar organizational problems. Therefore, the understanding of warning signals was passed down from generation to generation.

Still, some things are beyond the control of a knowledgeable person, and the night is even worse.

Police and local youth engaged in pitched battles around the venue’s inner and outer concourses as UEFA attempted to falsely accuse late-arriving supporters by projecting a message onto the stadium’s video screens. The fans were caught up in this. Many were beaten by both locals and police, and pepper spray and tear gas were also used.


Meanwhile, clashes at the three entry gates escalated as the stewards refused to let anyone in. It was later revealed that another major problem was the failure of UEFA’s online ticketing system, which did not work that day.

After the match, the fans were mobbed by Saint-Denis locals as they exited the stadium. At this point there was no offer of security from the police who just stood and watched. One eyewitness compared the scene to the Purge film series.

Fatalities (number? No. But many were injured and some are still recovering as 2022 turns into 2023.

UEFA quickly realized that the lie was not getting across due to the sheer amount of contradictory evidence recorded on mobile phones, but there has been no apology from the organization for over a week and heavy pressure from sponsors. Only came after, as Real Madrid, who eventually admitted their fans, also had serious problems accessing the Stade de France.

It turns out that Ceferin had appointed an old friend to lead a failed security operation involving riot police acting on outdated information.

Besides being a UEFA leader, there is a direct link between Ceferin and what happened in Paris. Perhaps his near death is not enough to make him question whether he should continue in his position, as he speaks little of it, and this easily depends on his conscience. I don’t know if I will.

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It’s a miracle nobody died in Paris when Liverpool faced Real Madrid in May’s Champions League final (Photo: Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Will UEFA’s independent report due in the new year encourage him to move forward?

Maybe even taking a more public position wouldn’t make any real difference.

Front-up was Infantino’s approach to his FIFA equivalent. He thought it appropriate to high-five the president of his league, Indonesian football, grinning during his October charity match at the site of the world’s worst stadium disaster. Of the 133 victims, they died from injuries sustained in another crash.

This happened when fans stormed the pitch at the end of a match between local leagues Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya.

Invasions are not an uncommon sight in Indonesia, but in this case the police did not wait for the mood to build. Tear gas inside stadiums is prohibited by FIFA, but police that day sent tear gas onto the terraces where women and children sat patiently waiting to go home. There was not enough air and many fled in the same direction, but the exit gate there was still closed and the pressure build-up led to another deadly scene.

Infantino will of course defend Qatar’s claims amid criticism of Qatar’s (where he owns the property) human rights issues, attitudes towards the LGBTQ community and treatment of migrant workers ahead of the World Cup. .

According to Infantino, the West shouldn’t be lecturing on the difference between right and wrong given the cures it has provided to other regions for hundreds of years. Where was the anger at Russia and China at the 2008 Summer Olympics and this year’s Winter Olympics?

The main difference is the stadium where the workers died. So Infantino’s World Cup and by definition FIFA are related to the deaths of those who helped make it all possible.

Even when FIFA has time to prepare tournaments, it’s wrong. Perhaps his $7.5bn (£6.2bn) the organization will get from Qatar in 2022 will ease any sense of embarrassment.

For the time being, it does not appear that much, if any, of that money will flow to migrant workers and their families because of the abuses they suffered in Qatar. Last month, human rights groups argued that FIFA was failing in its responsibilities by refusing to engage in any meaningful reparations scheme.

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Infantino at the World Cup final award ceremony (Photo: Stephen Nadler/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

In fact, it is an acknowledgment of failure from an organization that has profited from suffering, an organization that has experienced steroid enrichment from its quest to “grow its game.”

It is through this quest that FIFA, UEFA and CAF have come to excuse themselves. Whenever bad things happen at a football match, it’s not fan misbehavior that caused it, as in the past (sponsors wouldn’t like that). However, due to the popularity of the sport, there are a large number of people who want to go there.

If that’s true, Infantino, Ceferin and Motsepe are also to blame.

Creating a responsive and safe environment doesn’t seem like a priority at all for those who built it, those who see it all the time, and even those who use it for the first time.

(Photo above: STR/AFP via Getty Images)


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