The World Cup 2022 through the eyes of a psychologist…

The party is over. Golden dust has settled. Time for a bit of reflection.

This World Cup was really special to me for a few reasons. First of all, it spurred a mass boycott of the event, because laws in the hosting country discriminate against the LGBT community and women, and they also sanction modern-day slavery. Before and during the championship I heard many people criticising Qatar for their laws. I decided to watch the games because, as much as I oppose these drastic laws, I didn’t see how my not watching football can help. If anything, strong criticism from the international community at least made Qatar authorities aware of the problem. It slowed down the process of making their laws even worse. I know it is not much but I hope that opening a discussion about it could be the first step to improvements.

The championship as an event was a great success because it was full of surprises. Personally, I enjoy watching football because it is psychology in action at its best. Performance under pressure, reaction time, teamwork, stardom, theatricality, emotions: you can study it all in one go. My favourite game was a quarter-final between the Netherlands and Argentina. It was a play of failure, then hope, then a good fight, and finally losing by a split of a hair… As dramatic as it sounds, it was fascinating!

This World Cup was also special for me because I watched it in London. I know someone from almost every country participating in this championship. Regular everyday Londoners suddenly turned into English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Mexican, Argentinian, Japanese, Belgians, Polish, and so on… There is a certain beauty in it as long as culture, history, and politics are taken at their surface value but soon enough it turns out there is a dark depth in the above three… On one hand, it was a really touching experience to see the English and the French standing up side by side and singing their national anthems in the pub. At that moment you clearly felt that football has this uniting power of making people their best.

On the other hand, during this championship, I heard comments that should not be there and they came from people mostly unaware of how they might sound in another person’s ears. I heard that “Poland is used to losing.” (Well, yes, Poland lost but it doesn’t change the way Polish people feel about it…) I heard that “All great teams are gone before the semi-finals.” (Implying that the teams that are actually best are not great because they didn’t come from “traditionally great” teams?) I heard that “Morocco has not expected to get this far.” (Yes, because they play great and they are actually one of the four best teams but they didn’t expect to get this far?) It didn’t help that the man of the hour, the Golden Boot Winner managed to unite Argentina and Brazil over his comments about South American football…

Yes, I know these are football fans and football players. I should not expect the empathy of a psychologist or the diplomatic skills of an ambassador. Still, as much as football is a magical game that will never get out of date and should not be made responsible for man-made problems, the format of nations competing against each other is outdated and stirs bad emotions sometimes. I wish I live to a day when football is played between people who prefer apples and people who prefer oranges or something like that. No politics involved, just sheer joy of the game… In the meantime, congratulations, Messi, you look great even in a black cape!



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