One July 9, we were in Rome, right near the Via Veneto, with our three little children, one of whom had a birthday. My wife found a cake and some candles and borrowed the roof garden of the hotel for a little party.
My wife has taught the children a love of music and art and poetry and cooking and family. I taught them how to say, “Tre gelati, per favore,” so they could walk down the Via to an ice-cream stand and order their favorite flavor.
Today is Corinna V. Wilson’s birthday; her family is fussing over her in Pennsylvania.
I went out on the deck of our family home on Long Island and looked at the empty nest discreetly hidden on a branch. A few weeks ago, the nest held three blue eggs, guarded by the mother. Then there were three wide beaks, waiting for her to get back from our front lawn, where she had discovered a stash of meals.
For a few days, the three birds were flying at low altitude, watching their mother forage. Now they are full size, and they flit and feed and sing.
Welcome to World Cup 2022, the most absurd thing that the routinely absurd world of sports has ever produced.
Those extreme descriptions were what virtually the entire world, save for those who had walked off with bags of cash from Qatar, called the awarding of soccer’s greatest event to the incredibly tiny, incredibly wealthy country back in 2010.
Twelve years ago, many were convinced this event couldn’t possibly happen: staging the world’s biggest sporting event in a country the size of Connecticut, one with zero soccer culture and even less soccer infrastructure? The tournament couldn’t possibly take place in 120-degree heat, and FIFA, the governing body of soccer, most certainly wouldn’t upend football leagues around the world to change the traditional summer schedule, could it?
And, for God’s sake, what about the beer?
Those were just the logistical concerns. The moral concerns are far more distressing. FIFA, so busy paying lip service to equality, couldn’t possibly expect the world to embrace a country where you could go to prison for being gay, where women’s rights are severely curtailed and female victims of sexual assault could go to prison, charged with engaging in extramarital sex. And all those questions came before the global realization that the World Cup was being built on the backs of migrant labor: modern-day slaves held in Qatar with virtually no rights, low wages and no ability to leave. Migrants make up 90% of Qatar’s stated population of 3 million. The country’s native-born equal about 300,000, or roughly the size of Anaheim.
---Ann Killion, columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.