Photo: Alastair Grant (AP)

Riku Riski, a forward who plays for HJK Helsinki and the Finland national team, recently turned down an invitation to a national team training camp held in Qatar. Today, Finnish paper the Helsingin Sanomat reports that Riski rejected the call-up due to ethical concerns with the infamously human rights-abusing nation.

Riski told HS that “he wanted to stick to his values” by refusing to patronize Qatar, even if it meant missing out on a chance to solidify his place in the national team setup. Riski, 29, has 26 caps with Finland, but as of late has not been a regular in the squad. This training camp—as well as the pair of matches the camp precedes, against Sweden and Estonia, which will also be held in Qatar—isn’t part of FIFA’s officially sanctioned international calendar, so most of Finland’s best players who play abroad have not been a part of it. It’s more of an opportunity for fringe players like Riski to see if they can impress the manager and maybe earn more playing time when the games actually matter.

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The issue of Finland holding a camp in Qatar has earned the national team a fair bit of local controversy. In December, HS published a story that detailed some of the human rights atrocities Qatar is guilty of—from essentially enslaving much of its enormous population of foreign migrant workers under false pretenses, to forcing those laborers to live and work in incredibly dangerous and often deadly conditions, to being intentionally secretive when human rights groups attempt to assess the real status of the workers, and beyond.

To mask this reprehensible reality, to divorce the country’s reputation from the nasty business of slavery and death and marry it to wealth and success and fun and sports, Qatar has spent billions of dollars to construct an opulent shield it can place in front of the moral atrocities upon which the country is built in hopes everyone will forget what lies beneath. Qatar’s successful purchase of the 2022 World Cup is the most high-profile of these attempts to blind the world its foundational crimes, but the process of laundering Qatar’s image also includes all the money it gives to its favorite Trojan horse of propaganda, Paris Saint-Germain, and all the money it gives to clubs like Roma presently and Barcelona formerly to make Qatar Airways a prominent shirt sponsor, and all the money it gives clubs like Bayern Munich who hold their winter camps in Doha, and all the money it gives national teams like Finland to hold training camps and play international friendlies in Qatar.

Riski, unlike countless others and much more important people and clubs and companies and countries, apparently didn’t want to feel complicit in this scuzzy operation, and so he backed away. And good on him for doing so. For his part, Finland manager Markku Kanerva told HS that he respects Riski’s decision to decline the call-up, and that Riski will remain in contention for a spot in the national team squads going forward. When asked whether the Qatar camp was in accordance to his values, Kanerva declined to take a position.

[Helsingin Sanomat]