More than just a game: Conflict and contention demonstrated by 2022 World Cup


Celia Brown

The 2022 World Cup is over. However, the competition demonstrated national contention outside the soccer stadiums.

Jake Wilsted, Business Manager

All eyes have been on the World Cup as teams worldwide competed for the title of best “football” team. 

The United States did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but they demonstrated that they could compete internationally this year. TV ratings surged for United States matches, with nearly 20 million viewers, whereas in 2018, the average viewership per game was just over 5 million. This number, however, is inferior to world viewership. Just under one-half of the world population tuned into the World Cup, totaling over 3.6 billion viewers. 

The World Cup brings pride, patriotism, and support for one’s country in the competition. In the United States, soccer does not receive the mainstream popularity of football, baseball, basketball, or hockey. The 2022 Super Bowl was watched by almost 100 million Americans, five times the American World Cup viewership. 

This year’s influx in soccer viewership could be accredited to a greater sense of American patriotism and the values the United States represents. 

Senior Gianna Shelby does not actively watch soccer but has tuned in to World Cup games. “I believe it is important to support your country when they compete on the World Stage. It compares to the Olympics. Not many people watch the competing sports until the Olympics,” she stated. 

Senior Carter Spangler, a prospective PVHS boys soccer team captain, agreed with this notion. “For the love of sport, it is important to me that the United States wins. But in addition to winning, the United States is a symbol of freedom, liberty, and justice that other competing countries’ governments do not give to their own citizens,” he stated. 

The World Cup has demonstrated that it is more than just a sports game; it actively reflects more extensive global issues that each participating country symbolizes and the possibility of pushback from other nations, should there be disagreement.

Countries such as Iran have often faced scrutiny over human rights violations: sexual and gender-based violence, arbitrary arrests that led to violence and torture, extrajudicial killings— the list goes on. 

In protest of their own country, Iranian soccer players refused to sing their national anthem in their match against England. Reports state that the Iranian government subsequently threatened the players’ families with violence and torture if they did not sing their national anthem in future matches. 

The United States featured Iran’s old flag in social media posts to protest Iran’s negligence of human rights. Iran’s state media responded by stating that the United States should be expelled from the World Cup.

For citizens of Iran and many other developing nations, the United States is a symbol of hope and freedom, liberties that the Iranian people lack. Iranians supported the United States by celebrating the US’s 1-0 win over Iran.

Pleasant Valley High School senior Anna Reither stated, “I think people fail to realize that despite the United States’s flaws and shortcomings, we are extremely blessed to be Americans. There are few places in the world where it is harder to be a woman than in Qatar and Iran.”

Qatar has also faced backlash for not protecting human rights. The stadiums in which the games are played were built by modern-day slaves. These exploited “migrant workers” worked under harsh labor conditions, many of which died constructing these stadiums. 

From passionate soccer fanatics to human rights activists, soccer will continue to demonstrate and facilitate larger societal and cultural contention.