The World Cup Who Fell To Earth (is Joe Lycett a bully?)

In the most interesting event to have so far come out of the 2022 Football World Cup, British comedian, Joe Lycett threatened to shred £10,000 British Pounds if the ex-footballer, David Beckham didn’t cancel his role as ambassador for the competition.

The incident played out with Beckham not engaging in the discussion and Joe pretending to shred his money when he actually gave it to charity.

According to Joe, his stunt was a success because it achieved his aim of getting people (myself included) to discuss Qatar’s (the host country) negative attitude towards LGBTQ+ people.

I wonder, however, if he was entirely fair in picking on David Beckham. His reasoning is that Beckham has benefited financially and image-wise as a gay icon, he even wore a dress once, and according to Lycett, ought to have condemned both FIFA and Qatar.

My feeling, however, is that Beckham is (merely) a former sportsperson. He has never, to my knowledge, pretended to be a spokesperson, and as with many sports people who are plucked from education at a young age concentrated on his sport rather than honing his verbal and cerebral acuity. He wasn’t even known as having a ‘genius’ right foot. As an excellent footballer, he represented above-average talent and lots of very hard work. Good for him.

I wonder, therefore, if Joe Lycett is deliberately picking on somebody he knows is unable to provide a meaningful response. Beckham is no doubt surrounded by a team of clever PR people and his non-reaction would have been enforced by them. In fact, they would have said very clearly ‘You have nothing to gain by replying. Keep your head down and your mouth shut.’ In terms of marketing, they’re right. Also, had Beckham forfeited his own World Cup fee, his PR team would have had to deal with a pay cut of their own. As they say in Zurich ‘There’s no interest like a vested interest’.

Lycett second-guessed the outcome of his challenge and his chosen tactics were archly designed to never lead to a proper discussion between Beckham and himself. He’s the new master of self-fulfilling prophecy.

My view remains that FIFA remain absolutely culpable. They should never have selected to host a so-called inclusive competition in an non-inclusive country. All they wanted was the filthy lucre. The idea of staging the World Cup in Qatar was arrogant and disingenuous. It was arrogant because FIFA, being essentially a privately owned sports company, doned the garb of a crusader who would change the moral views of a a soverign country through 180 degrees. They are disingenuous because they knew this was impossible but kept up the pretence and smoke screens.

How dare they?

Qatar is what it is. Although some may deem it an underdeveloped society because it is racist and homophobic, the Qataris have every right to eschew liberal western views, so long, of course, as they don’t want to host international events that include liberal western participants. They should have said ‘No, leave us alone. Get back on your stolen Arabian steeds, remove your TS Lawrence Arab Face and leave us be. We are we, we are not you. Oh, please pay for the petrol this time, no freebies here.

FIFA’s attempt at modern day colonialisation is gauche. The fact that the next World Cup will be in the Americas proves how the 2018 and 2022 competitions have failed. The concept that empire building can be done with liberal values developed in Switzerland has been a sad joke and as effective as the Swiss navy in The Pacific Ocean.

If Joe Lycett really wanted a debate, he should have taken on FIFA. His exploitation of David Beckham was like low level bullying he knew that he’d win. Perhaps he ought to have picked on the likes of FIFA’s Kaiser, Gianni Infantino, a multi-lingual lawyer with a calculating brain and a taste for conflict.

Beckham messed up too. Perhaps he genuinely thought he could help Qatar reach out to his public or maybe it was just the money. My belief is that he just loves football and representing the game was the next best thing to playing it. You can take a footballer out of the game, but you can’t take the game out of the footballer.

Or something.

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