Unusually, perhaps, for a woman of my vintage, I have been obsessed with the World Cup all my life. My father, the late sportswriter Ken Jones, covered ten of them. He wrote what remains, not only in my substantially biased opinion but according to the judgement of the great and the good in his field, the finest study of England at the World Cup ever published. I have been, since childhood, the proud owner of my dad's Official badges from the '66 tournament, and of a 'World Cup Willie' football topper. Scoff you may. They are worth a tidy penny now. I wouldn't part with them for Beckham's fee in Doha.
Friends are surprised, therefore, by my refusal to watch a single second of the Qatar fiasco. Had my father still been alive, he would have risked dismissal by his employers at the Independent newspaper by refusing to go. He would have thrown up his remaining hand, exasperated. He would have held forth for Wales on the shame of it all. He would have reminded the brazen and the blinkered that we have had a dozen years to sort this mess out. FIFA selected Qatar back in 2010. We have always known that there was corruption at the most fundamental level: in the bidding process. They got away with it. Well, they would, wouldn't they.
I am still struggling with the rest. Agreed, the treatment of the thousands of migrant workers who built the stadia in murderous heat and sub-human conditions, leading to the conservative death estimate of some 6,500, is both abhorrent and enough to deter even the diehards. But wait. Have you, as I have, visited the Coliseum in Rome, where countless Christians were thrown to lions and slaughtered in unequal combat in the name of entertainment? What is the Coliseum if not a sporting stadium? Have you been, as I have, to Cairo, and gazed upon the pyramids, where untold numbers of labourers fell to their deaths, starved, or expired from searing heat exposure and exhaustion while they were building the things?
As for the LGBT+ controversy, the fearful fate of homosexuals, women's rights, the comparably so-what controversy over staging the tournament in winter; FIFA's decree that we must 'stick to the football'; the shame of super-woke, virtue-signalling vultures Lineker, Shearer, Alex Scott, David Beckham, Robbie Williams, et al, all sitting comfortably in those fine shiny stadia, soaking up lakes of money; as for shamed Morgan Freeman getting sexpest-washed at the opening ceremony; and as for the BBC 'making a point' by screening said ceremony only online: do they think we are stupid or something?
Every one of us knows, in our heart of hearts, that England and Wales should not be in Qatar. That we should have boycotted this stinking, shameful, cash-grab poor excuse for a World Cup. Our national team, broadcaster, the collective conscience, the very pride of Britain, are tainted by our participation.
The power of football as a force for good? Pull the other one, Gianni Infantino. We should have demonstrated the grit and courage that we are supposed to be made of. We should have stuck our necks out. We should not be there.