Athletes excited about divisive World Cup games

The World Cup is being played a half a world away in Qatar, but PNW students are invested in the competition. 

“Personally, I hope Argentina wins because I really want [Lionel] Messi to win the World Cup since he hasn’t before, and since it may be his last World Cup,” said Ashley Gasca, a freshman Political Science major. “My family, on the other hand, are also cheering on Argentina and Mexico, but Mexico is in a tough group so who knows if they’ll make it past.” 

When the World Cup begins Nov. 20, fans in Northwest Indiana will need to get up awfully early to watch the matches live. 

During the group stage round, when most games will be played, matches will take place at 4 a.m., 7 a.m., 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Central Time. The kickoff game, Qatar versus Senegal on Nov. 20, begins at 10 a.m. Central Time.

“I plan to keep up with the World Cup the best that I can and watch some games with my roommates and friends,” said Allison Zimmer, a junior Psychology major. 

The World Cup is the most prestigious soccer tournament in the world, as well as the most widely viewed sporting event. About 3.5 billion people watched the last World Cup, in 2018 — more than 1 billion of them saw the final match between France and Croatia. This year’s audience is projected to be about 5 billion.  

Gasca is not sure she’ll be watching too much live.

“My plan originally was to … watch most of the World Cup soccer games, however, because of the different time zones, it’s hard to tell if I’ll actually be awake,” she said. “I wouldn’t mind watching the replays and reruns during the day.” 

This is the first World Cup held in the Middle East. It is also one of the first that people are boycotting because of where it is being held. There has been significant controversy over Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers who have built many of the World Cup venues. Reports say that nearly 6,500 workers have died while building the infrastructures for the stadiums. 

“I’m aware of the injustice happening in Qatar,” said Gasca. “I think it will affect my viewership. As much as I want to see the World Cup, it’s upsetting to see what the workers are going through in their work environment.”

Qatar’s laws against homosexuality also create unique problems – both for players and fans. 

“The negative events that have unfolded in Qatar, like the discrimination and hate towards the LGBTQ+ community that are going to travel there for the tournament is unsettling,” said Zimmer. “I do plan to still watch the games, but I do think it could have been held somewhere else.”