Nothing marks 2021 in the world of sport as a “sports wash” phenomenon.
Far from a new concept or a new form of strategic thinking.
But in 2021, the phenomenon finally gets the attention it deserves here in Norway, including a public stamp.
It’s a mix of excitement and a bit of surrealism that December’s “sports laundry” was named Word of the Year by the Language Council.
It’s fun, because it’s an acknowledgment of a concept which, firstly, is itself a tiny pearl – or perhaps rather a drop of oil – and which has hitherto been used in a less broad context.
Surreal in that it says so little about the level of sports wash it will get.
The debate over the World Cup in Qatar and a possible boycott of Norway brought the concept to the consciousness of a large part of the Norwegian population.
The men’s national football team under the leadership of Ståle Solbakken, manifested this in the many conversations about the shirts they were displaying ahead of the World Cup qualifiers.
But the fight against sports laundering is also in reality lost as we write early 2022. Because what we consider to be the dark forces of sport won some truly decisive battles over the past year.
Big sports wash day
i am august Lionel Messi was introduced as a PSG player.
A few weeks earlier, no one would have thought this was possible.
Messi wants to stay at Barcelona. Barcelona wants to keep Messi. The problem is they can’t. The club’s economy that was persecuted for several years became visible all over the world. One of the most powerful and popular clubs in the world cannot afford to retain its symbol of greatness. Instead, they should be humbled to see PSG France welcome Messi to the French capital by the smiling club president, Nasser al-Khelaifi.
PSG is wholly owned by the state of Qatar. The world’s best football players from today are theirs. A trophy bigger than the 1.69m tall Argentine, they couldn’t dream of showing the world.
Therefore, August 11 from now on can be observed as the annual world sports laundry day.
Every time one of the all-time offensive streaks, with Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, scores a goal for PSG, they help strengthen the position and reputation of the oil nation.
And to undermine our awareness of what the real situation is like in the regime, whether it’s Qatar, like here, or one of the neighboring countries of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia that we’re talking about.
The latter ended up buying Premier League club Newcastle in 2021. No one knows what the consequences will be for football or the city of Newcastle in the long term. It’s just that it should never have happened.
So we do, when we wash our sports
But no barrier remained. No one can or really wants to stop a regime with a deplorable human rights situation from using sport as a show, and as an invitation to future cooperation, economic, political or military.
Therefore, the sporting year 2021 ends with a spectacular final in the race for the World Cup title in Formula 1 with finals in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
Saudi Arabia alone has paid more than NOK 6 billion for a 10-year agreement to host an exciting Formula 1 round.
The World Cup year started in Bahrain and came to the Arabian Peninsula via countries like Azerbaijan, Hungary, Russia, Turkey, Brazil. None of them are in the top 100 either best country in the world in terms of human rights.
The most popular motorsport in the world in practice is the mobile sports laundry agency.
Crown Prince’s Order
But Saudi Arabia and its powerful Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, have ambitions in multiple directions. In February, it will be Saudi International’s fourth edition in golf. The starting money is said to be over 10 million kroner per player. So just to line up. Viktor Hovland is not on the list of participants yet. But he is in 2021.
To the critique he replied Norsk Golf: “I’m a golfer, not a politician”.
And of course he was right about that. But if Hovland is not a politician, then he is politics, whether he wants to or not.
The tournament is part of the kingdom’s desire to challenge the PGA with its own golf league.
It doesn’t stop there. There is no reason to believe that Saudi Arabia will not soon position itself to host the World Cup or the Summer Olympics. According to The Guardian, the renowned Boston Consulting Group is already in the process of positioning Saudi Arabia as the host of the future World Cup.
On the way there, a near-infinite amount of oil money will draw the world’s biggest sports star, vaccinated or not, to tournaments in the famed kingdom.
2022 will be the year of true sports washing
For those who still miss sport wash in the breakthrough year of 2021, we can be comforted by the fact that everything will be much clearer in 2022.
The entire sporting year is beautifully framed by two giant events, the Winter Olympics in China in February and the World Cups in Qatar in November and December, both of which will be new milestones in the history of the sport’s increasingly glorious wash.
Both would be well-directed tributes from the governments we in the West are trying to keep away from. But the will is also here more and more half-hearted.
Well, some sporting powers, such as the United States, Canada and Britain, have announced the so-called diplomatic boycott of the Olympics in Beijing. But this is purely a political game. None of the participants were held at home, and that’s all that matters.
The World Cup in Qatar has been and will be criticized. But no one else gets attention when it comes to talking about migrant workers who have died or the kafala system ahead of the World Cup.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino ends 2021 by announcing the upcoming World Cup in Qatar «Football celebration and social inclusion». Believe it or not.
When the NFL recently announced a five-year partnership agreement with China, its presentation included a map that suddenly made Taiwan part of mainland China.
It’s quite symptomatic.
Few will ever be as we once felt in a world washed out by sport.
Last year’s real breakthrough has a bright future. Unfortunately, it was just a congratulation.
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