As the 2022 World Cup is about to kick off in Qatar, designer and art director Adam Morton-Delaney has used the opportunity to criticise the poor human rights track record of the host nation. And he’s done this by subverting the traditionally respectful symbol of football pennants.
Titled Pathetic Pennants, Adam’s project plays with the imagery of the fabric drapes exchanged between teams and players before matches. While this is usually an honourable gesture, Pathetic Pennants turns the concept on its head by proudly displaying messages such as ‘World Cup Fuck Up’ and ‘Even Cricket Is More Fun Than This!’
The alternative pennants also blow the whistle on the estimated 6,500 migrant workers who died during the construction of the stadium, as well as FIFA’s decision to put profit before people by letting the tournament take place where homosexuality is illegal. As Adam puts it: “The World Cup in Qatar will be the ugliest tournament the beautiful game has ever seen.”
He adds: “I’m a massive football fan, and whilst I’m excited to watch England at a major tournament, I feel like I can’t fully get behind them this year because the tournament’s location and organisation have been so misjudged.
“It’s a shame because the World Cup has the power to bring people together. But this year, Qatar seems to be doing everything it can to do the opposite. Just you watch: wouldn’t it be typical if this was the one England won?”
The series of ten pennants are beautifully crafted, which acts as a brilliant contrast to their messaging. Made out of silk and what Adam calls “those nice frilly bits around the edge”, these pennants are steeped in football’s rich design history of matchday programmes.
As for the messaging, some of the copy calls back to well-known football chants. The infamous ‘it’s coming home’ becomes ‘not coming home’, while other pennants refer to unfair moments in footballing history, such as Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany. Meanwhile, the typefaces are a nod to protest banners and fan flags, while the colours reflect the strips of participating teams.
Even the number of pennants in the set is also a dig at the situation in Qatar. “Originally, there were going to be eleven pennants in total – to mark eleven players in a team,” Adam reveals. “But instead, there are ten: one less, to highlight how this year’s World Cup in Qatar isn’t fair.”