The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The beautiful game is fine. Suitcases full of cash are better.

A drone display and fireworks are seen over the skyline ahead of the FIFA World Cup in Doha, Qatar. (Jon Gambrell/AP)

It is me, Soprani Ilbambino, president of the football in all the world across the globe. As head of the council, chair of the standing committee on programmes, chief of normalization, close friend of the House of al-Thani, laughing chair-mate of the Saudi crown prince, and ally of Kremlins and dearest leaders, it is my honor to welcome you to the World Cup in Qatar. If you would, please slide the envelope across the table under your palm, thank you.

I am here today to announce that the colorful rainbow stripes cannot be worn at the football. If you wear the colorful rainbow stripes on your armband as a player in the football, you will get a yellow card. If you wear the colorful rainbow stripes on your bucket hat as a spectator at the football, you will be stopped by the Directorate of Public Safety and your hat removed, exposing you to the pitiless Arabian sun. We must respect the host and not be racist westerners, because, as one of my colleagues recently said, a place that had “just sand and pearls, turns out to have something much more, it’s gas,” which is the reason we have all come to Qatar. So, if you would, please place the unmarked bills under the napkin.

The Qatar Supreme Committee has repeatedly insisted that “everyone is welcome” to the football, and I can confirm that they have confirmed that I can confirm this. Except for homosexuals, who are haram and have what one Qatar World Cup ambassador called “damage in the mind,” and thus are subject to arrest and imprisonment for seven years. I cannot confirm that the Preventive Security Department recently cleansed the streets of Doha on the eve of the football and placed suspected homosexuals in the Al Dafneh underground prison. But we Europeans should not moralize — after all, we still have not apologized for the Bronze Age Etruscan orgies 3,000 years ago. We leave the moralizing to the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said of the ban on the colorful rainbow stripes, “No one on a football pitch should be forced to choose between supporting these values and playing for their team.” And so please fold the bills and slip them to me as you shake my hand on leaving.

Rainbow-wearing soccer fans refused entry, confronted at Qatar World Cup

The Qatar World Cup is 200 percent within my control as president of the football in all the world across the globe. As you can clearly read in articles 4.3, 4.31, 4.32, 4.33 and 4.34 from our annexes, circulars, guidelines and directives, no items of clothing can be worn if they are considered “offensive or indecent,” or if they represent “political, religious or personal slogans.” Therefore, under the rules, as well as the talking points given me by the sheikhs, I must forbid the Dutch and other European teams from wearing armbands that promote “OneLove.” If armbands were supposed to draw attention, we would have sold the licensing rights to them. Preferably to QatarEnergy.

Nothing should distract from the football. And it is with this in mind that I turn your attention to the newly built eight stadiums rising from the glass-melting sands of this peninsula, where we can see the tankers from our five-star hotel windows at the Fairmont Katara Towers, architecture inspired by a scimitar blade, decor inspired by megayachts, smallest room $750 night, with spa, butler service, the tallest chandelier in the world, and live falcon shows.

Plus four restaurants, one of which serves a $75 afternoon tea service. I recommend the Lobster Caesar, or the Burrata with vanilla infused vinaigrette and balsamic caviar. And if you would with the toe of your shoe under the table discreetly push the overstuffed briefcase toward my side of the banquette, thank you.

Families of migrant workers who died in Qatar are waiting for answers

The Qatar World Cup does not deserve this hypocritical criticism by the western moralists, who insult my good friend the emir. These stadiums and hotels, as well as new railways and highways, were not built by slaves but by hundreds of thousands of migrant volunteers, who came here for the healthful climate, and offered their services simply because they wanted to help, as you can see from the numbers who fainted on the job from pride. They had the opportunity to earn many more times what they would have in their undeveloped countries back home before they died unpaid, rolling asphalt in 110-degree heat in 12-hour shifts in Wakrah.

As the president of the football in all the world, I am proud of the World Cup’s long association with strong governments and I salute those who used their influence to bring this event here, including those who can’t attend as they are engaged in foreign invasion, under house arrest for election corruption, or banned for life for ethical breaches. This continues our organization’s wonderful tradition of global outreach that extends from Mussolini’s Italy in 1934, to the Military Junta’s Argentina in 1978, to Putin’s Russia in 2018. So please, if you would sign the offshore agreement and have the funds transferred, half in Singapore dollars and half in South African Rand, to the Banque Pictet in Geneva, account 665777213345667894652, code name “AlltheBiscotti.” Thank you.

World Cup in Qatar

The latest: The World Cup continues with Group G winner Brazil taking on Group H runner-up South Korea in a round-of-16 game in Doha, Qatar. The winner of this game will play Croatia in a quarterfinal on Friday after the Croatians beat Japan in penalty kicks earlier Monday. Follow our live coverage for the latest news, analysis and highlights.

USMNT: The U.S. men’s national team fell to the Netherlands, 3-1, on Saturday in the opening match of the round of 16. The United States has not won a World Cup knockout match since 2002, when it beat regional rival Mexico in the round of 16 in South Korea.

Knock out round schedule: A World Cup group stage filled with shocking upsets and dramatic turnarounds will now give way to a knockout round that promises more surprises.

Perspective: “The incremental progress was clear, but more than that, the players performed in a matter that indicates they are on a path to immense growth. There is a cohesion and energy about the United States that should inspire belief.” Read Jerry Brewer on the U.S. men’s national team’s future.