The hustle and bustle of sports will pass and the big business of sports will collapse.

On October 30, 1974, Muhammad Ali battles George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire, a dystopic country vividly depicted in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Their fight has been described as “the greatest sporting event of the 20th century”. It was watched by a record billions of viewers worldwide. It attracted the largest purse in history. President Mobutu Sese Seko paid $10 million to host it.

A leopard-skinned psychopath, Mobutu buys the fight to improve his image. A month before the opening bell, he rounded up 1,000 people with criminal records and imprisoned them beneath the stadium where the fight was to take place. One hundred of them were arbitrarily picked up and killed. Mobutu had a warning for how to behave with his people when Westerners arrived.

It was all well known, but it didn’t matter. The world descended on the Congo, the world loved it and the battles and carnivals that surround it are the stuff of legend. There are no ethics in professional sports.

The world of golf is in the midst of a mock crisis. Like Mobutu, Saudi Arabia is washing its image. Some golfers and journalists are twitching their hands and shedding blood about morality. It will soon pass. The widely loved English heavyweight Anthony Joshua is set to fight his rematch against Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi in August. Promoter Eddie Hearn says he is “comfortable with the decision.” Joshua doesn’t see what the fuss is about.

Saudi is now the location of choice for many of the biggest fights because it brings in the most money. Journalists will descend en masse. Fighting fans will fly in from all over the world. The PPV will be through the roof. As Hearn puts it, “My only obligation is to get the maximum amount possible.” This is not a game. This is business. Hearn could be a hedge fund manager or a media mogul or a superstar banker. How does it matter?

Saudis are now investing heavily in big business all over the world. Formula One, Horse Racing, Wrestling, Boxing, Premier League and nobody is boycotting these events. It is one of the most brutal dictatorships on the planet, but power brokers and competitors don’t care as long as money is flowing off the ground and into their pockets. fan? They will go anywhere to see a big event.

In March this year, 81 people (mainly the persecuted Shia Muslim minority) were massacred by the Saudi regime. The sports world nodded and said f**k it.

Such a small incident could not possibly have been allowed to get in the way of the Saudis’ latest toy, Newcastle United FC. The UK government (they sell a lot of weapons to the Saudis and buy a lot of its oil) announced that they could not reveal the details of their involvement in the takeover deal “as it could damage relations with Saudi Arabia.” On behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, Foreign Office Minister Amanda Milling told the House of Commons that “Newcastle United’s purchase of the Saudi Public Investment Fund is welcome.”


Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansoor. Images by AFP via Getty Images

Newcastle’s stadium has been full to the neck ever since. He stormed the final furlong of the Premier League. Fans, and many others with vested interests in the Premier League, are trembling with positively euphoria as Saudi Arabia turns Newcastle into another Man City. Who cares that they put women to death for adultery? Or send homosexuals to jail for ‘sodomy’? Or murder of journalists? Or beheaded teenagers for petty crimes? His new striker costs £75m and looks like a competitor love island, Hurray.

In 2008, Manchester City was bought by Sheikh Mansour, the United Arab Emirates. This is one of the most terrible dictatorships in the world. Torture, show trial, imprisonment without trial, solitary confinement for regime critics, forced disappearances, serial war crimes against Yemen? Never mind about it, Man City won the Premier League.

The World Cup is another white grove of corruption and sportswashing (like the Tour de France, or the Olympics, or cricket or MMA). Qatar, perhaps the lowest country on earth, won the rights to this year’s corruption festival after bribing left, right and centre. Fifty degree heat? Never mind, the authorities will be able to afford that heated swimming pool or that peach villa in France.

In February 2021, analysis by Guardian The newspaper revealed that ever since the rights to host the FIFA World Cup were granted to Qatar in 2010, and construction of the stadium and infrastructure began, 6,500 migrant workers had died. The actual death rate is “significantly higher” as countries such as the Philippines and Kenya have not provided figures. Cardiac arrest, heat stroke, work accidents, illness. These were real human beings, engaged in backbreaking work, living in hustle and bustle, to send home money to desperate families.

The impact on families and communities has been dire. but who cares? Stadiums and pubs will be packed. TV channels around the world will be filled with excitement. Contacted for comment, the Qatar Authority said: “Every life lost is a tragedy, and no stone is left unturned in trying to prevent every death in our country.” FIFA said: “We are fully committed to protecting the rights of workers in FIFA projects.” Fair enough. Now, beer, fun, and ole ole ole ole ole. Hopefully it will be as enjoyable as the last World Cup. Remember where that was held?

in that Observer A few years ago, journalist and Man City fan Simon Heatonstone wrote that “people live and die by Sheikh Mansour’s decisions. If I were as principled as I wanted to be, I would condemn my club and walk away – of course.” Human rights trample a football club. But I can’t. So for now, I stand with City, while pleading for them to speak for justice.” Simon was merely telling the truth. As in Al Pacino’s godfather said, when he was criticized by a happily corrupt US senator, “Senator, we all share the same hypocrisy.”

Liverpool-Til-A-Die Mo Salah has been in the news. He is earning only £10.4m a year. Mo loves the people of Liverpool so much that he is set to live for £20.8m a year. Liverpool are offering £14.3m, which is heartbreaking for Salah. So heartbreaking that he’s about to go on a free transfer next year. It’s not personal. This is just business.

Meanwhile, in Derry, it is extremely personal. There is a lot of excitement about the upcoming All-Ireland series. We cannot talk or think of anything else. Our youth are queuing for autographs and making flags and posters. Our players are happily mingling with their people. These are the true bonds of loyalty and solidarity. No player needs to say that it was his childhood dream to play for his county at Croke Park. We know it was.

They will go back to their jobs on Monday morning, no matter what, teaching our youth, working as doctors and builders and plumbers.

And a week later they will leave for their clubs again and in due time they will take the team and mark the pitches and become the president and the secretary and the umpire. They will be real role models.

As my late father was inclined to say, “Without the GAA, we would be as barbarians as the British.”