January 28, 2023

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Doha (Dagbladet): Today is a week since the start of the World Cup finals in Qatar. Matches are in full swing, and the controversy over the “One Love” bracelet may be starting to die down.

What does the Qatar World Cup look like so far? Never before had the tournament been so slaughtered. But how do the actors inside experience what’s going on?

At the press center at Al Bayt Stadium outside Doha, Dagbladet meets two of England’s most experienced journalists. Henry Winter is a commentator for The Times and Martin Lipton is a journalist for The Sun. They both went on to score a lot of championships with England, and are among the most experienced men in the class.

Journalist in the Sun: Martin Lipton. Photo: Tore Ulric Bratland
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Lipton tells Dagbladet:

– This is the ultimate two-sided toilet. There are millions of reasons not to be in Qatar. But if you look at this from a journalistic perspective – and from a football perspective – the tournament is fantastic. You can’t deny that. But the bathroom should not have been here. He insists he should never have come to Qatar.

– You are divided into two parts. When you’re a football reporter, your job is to cover the sport. But you feel conflicted all the time, because of what you know about the country. We know the pressure the authorities are putting on FIFA. We know this through human rights and LGBT rights. He says it was a very strange experience.

– There wouldn’t be a FIFA World Cup easier to cover considering that the stadiums are so close to each other. The organization is really great. But we know death stories.

Lipton continues:

– At the same time you have football. I’ve seen Japan, South Korea and Belgium. You will be happy, even if you don’t really want to be here. It is – as I said – a very strange experience.

Strange talk: FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s press conference last Saturday sparked a reaction.
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– FIFA President Gianni Infantino opened the World Cup with a press conference. What impression did he make of her?

There is no difference between it now and how it was before. I’ve covered FIFA for 25 years. I covered him when he was UEFA’s general secretary. That’s just what it is. He’s a showman.

Among other things, Infantino said at the press conference:

Today I feel like a Qatari. Today I feel like an Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel like myself. Today I feel helpless. Today I feel like a migrant worker.

Infantino believes that Europe – with its history – has no right to make moral speeches. Lipton says there was a lot of nonsense in the speech, but adds:

– If he spoke for 20 minutes, and not for almost an hour, it would be fine. But taking that long made him look like an idiot. But he is not a fool. he is smart.

Commentator for the Times: Henry Winter.  Photo: Tore Ulric Bratland

Commentator for the Times: Henry Winter. Photo: Tore Ulric Bratland
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Commentator Henry Winter points out:

– That was embarrassing. He needs a new screenwriter. Infantino must come out of the bubble. It cannot be with certain people in Qatar only. He needs to get out into the world and talk to the fans. FIFA is the leading body in football. But you will not make him the principal of your school.

– How many years do you think he will get the job?

– As long as he wants. The majority of the world accepts what FIFA says.

out of the closet: Here, FIFA’s Director of Media, Brian Swanson, comes out as gay.
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Winter thinks like Lipton: if you look at the organizational aspects and football in isolation, there is not much to complain about at the World Cup.

– There was a lot of noise before the tournament. And the noise is still present. There is criticism of Qatar. I spoke to some English supporters. Someone was on his way here, but changed his mind, says the commentator.

– But you always wanted football. You always want beauty in the field. See the result of the Brazilian Richarlison. Japan beat Germany. In addition, you have a toilet where everything is very close together. It’s like hosting the Olympics in your own backyard. It’s very intimate, Winter points out.

– Some say it’s cold in air-conditioned stadiums. I am disappointed in some of the judges. In the 2018 World Cup Russia, the video assistant referee worked. When you look at the penalty kick that Cristiano Ronaldo got, it didn’t work either.

Telemundo profile: Javier Renovato.  Photo: Tore Ulric Bratland

Telemundo profile: Javier Renovato. Photo: Tore Ulric Bratland
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Dagbladet also asks a third journalist we meet what he thinks of WC.

The tournament coverage was very good. There was a great security system to enter the stadiums. But there have been many great matches, and Doha is a beautiful city, says Javier Renovato of Telemundo USA.

When Dagbladet met Aftonbladet journalist Erik Niva a few days ago, he summed up the World Cup as follows:

– It would have been bigger if football fields weren’t over people’s graves.

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