Thursday, April 9, 2015

Qatar and the example of Spain in sports

As it is well known, Qatar will host the 2022 soccer/football World Cup. This decision was surrounded by corruption claims and still many experts believe that Qatar is far from the best place to organize such an event. Among many controversial issues, the main soccer leagues (the ones that are followed by more fans globally) will have to interrupt the competition in the autumn before the world cup to allow their best players to participate in that event. Today, the Qatari minister for sports and youth, in an interview in the Spanish newspaper El Pais (for which this great newspaper should be ashamed, as there is no question about corruption or the miserable condition of immigrant workers), says that his model in sports is Spain. That is why many Spanish footballers end their professional careers in Qatar, or why they hire many Spanish coaches or medical doctors specialized in sports. However, Spain is far from a model from the point of view of developing sports to develop welfare in general. The boom in Spanish sports in the last 20 years has been accompanied by a speculative bubble (which finally burst) of which the sports bubble has been a component. The Spanish authorities have promoted sports to the detriment of other more productive activities, as with the tax privileges targeted at foreign footballers or the many bailouts of football clubs in financial difficulties. Many of the stars of Spanish sports have been involved in doping scandals, sometimes with the unhidden support of local or national politicians. Spain is a good model if they want to win the World Cup, but it is not the best model if they are committed to develop their country and improve social welfare. At least, before they continue following the Spanish model in sports, they should read the book by Andrew Zimbalist Circus Maximus, where the social benefits of big sports events are appropriately questioned.

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