What on earth is Morgan Freeman doing, expanding Qatar? Probably earning a few dollars (although there is no information on the exact amount of the fee) and improving your own somewhat tarnished reputation (in 2018 there were allegations of sexual harassment).
Perhaps it is looking for its own “redemption”, although it does not need it, as a statutory world treasure – a kind of World Heritage site of humanity. His voice remains the most persuasive voice on the planet today, the kind of rich, deep, glossy veneer that can be applied to even the most horrible human rights hellholes, making it possible to see what Qatar has gained by booking it to open the World Cup. But Morgan, Qatar? Really? How could you?
Being one of the greatest actors of his generation, Freeman can irony, but there was no trace of that in the breezy, feel-good chatter he knocked out during the opening ceremony – rightly ignored by the BBC in favor of some hard-hitting documentary truths about life in the Gulf State.
“We gather here as one great tribe and the Earth is the tent we all live in,” intoned the megastar, apparently unaware of the reality that if some members of one great tribe have a fancy for another member of one great tribe who happens to be of the same sex, then they will be forcibly removed from the tent where we all live and thrown into a Qatari police cell for the duration, afflicted with “mind damage” according to a Qatari official.
Everyone is welcome in Qatar, they say what is true, but only if it is not in the wrong context.
Freeman has a rhetorical power that can give even the most brazen remarks the power of biblical prophecy, which is probably why they chose this charismatic, award-winning character. But even so, they gave him some pretty rubbish: “Football embraces the world, unites nations in their love of the beautiful game. What unites nations also unites communities. We all have a story about football and how it brought us together and this land has a story of its own.
As Joe Lycett quipped as he eliminated David Beckham, Morgan apparently never watched a West Brom game. (Sorry, baguettes.)
The sad truth is that Qatar is such a toxic regime and the tournament is turning into such a sporting mess that even the likes of Freeman and Beckham suffer reputational damage as a result of their involvement.
Every day seems to bring new controversies, more stories about the suffering of migrant workers, another last-minute change of plan that leaves fans angry and confused. Just when you thought FIFA couldn’t have a worse figurehead than Sepp Blatter, unfortunately Gianni Infantino shows up with his cryptic homily “I Feel Gay”.
Just when fans thought they could at least get a glass of Budweiser when they suffered sunstroke, authorities closed all bars in time.
Many Qatari fans did not even want to stay for the second half of the admittedly boring match against Ecuador. The “Cermsons”, as the Qatari team is apparently called, were only trailing 2-0 at half-time, which is really not an insurmountable barrier to an eventual victory, even if your goalkeeper is extremely incompetent. But the team is much less likely to fight without the home supporters behind them.
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It seems that at the most basic level, FIFA has failed to turn this corner of the world into football madness.
And it will go on like this for the next few weeks. Stars like Harry Kane will not wear the ‘wrong’ armband after FIFA sanctions threaten, fans will be neglected, journalists will be intimidated and all the world will know about Qatar and Qatari is that they hate gay people, believe the migrant workers who built their huge stadiums and flashy hotels as redundant subhumans, this place is totally corrupt, totally unfit to host international sporting events, virtually uninhabitable with no universal air conditioning, and they have zero taste.
So far, this World Cup has been a veritable feast of own goals – Fifa, Beckham, Freeman, Gary Neville, sponsors like Budweiser, Coca-Cola and McDonalds, and of course Qatar itself.
It would have been much better if they had spent the $200 billion that the World Cup cost on some cool adverts for the tourism organization and let the world live in blissful ignorance of this relatively obscure mini-state. This is without question the costliest PR disaster in human history. This united the world in admiration for such a feat, which I guess is something.