A fresh take on the World Cup Quarter-finals

I’ve been volunteering with Amnesty for close to four months now and I can genuinely say that it has ruined the World Cup for me.

When I got the position I couldn’t believe my luck – getting vital experience for the CV by researching and reading about football, the World Cup and human rights? That’s what my summer plans involved (well, the football and World Cup bit at least).

But now, having been immersed for this length of time in the world of human rights, specifically human rights in sport, the way I think about sport has changed forever.

I had always had passing distain for the violent police response to peaceful anti-World Cup protests in Brazil. I felt he same about forced evictions of favela communities to make room for stadia, hotels and roads needed for the World Cup and, of course, the Rio Olympics two years from now.

I had always opposed the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, but this was more to do with the fact that I didn’t like the idea of a winter World Cup – one of the solutions proposed to deal with the problem of the searing heat of a desert summer, than human rights. And I followed the coverage of President Putin’s crackdown on gay rights and freedom of expression in the run up to the Sochi Winter Olympics in February.

But I am willing to admit that to a certain degree, I considered these issues an aside to the events, rather than inherently related.

The fact is that this simply isn’t true. Major sporting events, with their mass media coverage, multimillion pound sponsorships and the thousands in attendance, provide an opportunity to shine a light on human rights abuses in the countries hosting them. They can also be a catalyst for, or used as a justification of, human rights abuses. The police response to the Brazil protests and the maltreatment of migrant workers in Qatar are just two of the most striking examples of this fact.

So when you’re all settling in at home or the pub to watch this week’s quarter final games, spare a thought for me. When you will be seeing line-ups, possession statistics and everything else, I will see this:


Head of State: Dilma Rousseff
Line up:

  • Continued threat to women’s sexual and reproductive rights
  • Forced eviction of poor families in the run up to the World Cup and Olympics
  • Failure to protect the land rights of indigenous peoples
  • Widespread use of torture
  • Cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners and detainees
  • Repressive and discriminatory policing methods
  • Impunity for historic human rights abusers



Head of State: Juan Manuel Santos Calderón
Line up:

  • Continued threat of gender based violence towards women and lack of justice
  • Serious violations of international humanitarian laws by guerrilla forces
  • Serious human rights violations by paramilitaries
  • Serious human rights abuses by security forces
  • Extrajudicial executions by security forces
  • Denial of rights to indigenous peoples
  • Reasonably high impunity for those violating human rights



Head of State: François Hollande
Line up:

  • Instances of death in police custody
  • Allegations of ill-treatment by police
  • Discrimination against LGBTI communities
  • Increasing discrimination and violence towards Roma and other minority communities
  • Escalating forced eviction of Roma camps
  • Denial of rights to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants



Head of Government: Angela Merkel
Line up:

  • Allegations of police brutality and ill-treatment
  • Incidents of police discrimination and racism
  • Discrimination against refugees, asylum seekers and Roma communities
  • Denial of rights to refugees and asylum seekers



Head of Government: Mark Rutte
Line up:

  • Excessive use of immigration detention
  • Proposed partial ban on the wearing of the full face veil
  • Ongoing allegations of discrimination and racial profiling by the police


Costa Rica

Head of State: Luis Guillermo Solís
Line up:

  • Use of torture by police and security officials
  • Poor sanitation and ill-treatment of prisoners
  • Inadequate protection for women from rape and sexual violence
  • Discrimination against indigenous and migrant populations
  • No laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexuality
  • Continued instances of child labour



Head of State: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
Line up:

  • Concerns over women’s access to abortion following pregnancy through rape
  • Concerns over ability to protect women from gender-based violence
  • Denial of rights to indigenous peoples
  • Allegations of torture use by police



Head of Government: Elio Di Rupo
Line up:

  • Allegations of torture during a terrorism trial
  • Overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in prisons
  • Failure to protect the rights of mentally ill prisoners
  • Widespread discrimination especially against Muslims
  • Inadequate provision for and treatment of traveller communities
  • Inadequate checks on the final destination of weapons sold through the arms trade


Ryan Wilding is one our Media team volunteers, working on sport and human rights.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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