Conrad the Contrarian: Humble Hummel

In September, Danish sports brand Hummel unveiled toned-down football kits for the Danish team’s World Cup campaign as a protest against the event being hosted in Qatar.

The best we’ve got?
Of course, this World Cup has been highly controversial due to forced labour, slavery and deaths. More than 6,500 migrant workers have allegedly died in horrific conditions. Many teams and companies have discussed boycotting the event to make a statement … but none have actually followed through.

So Hummel’s redesign of the herrelandsholdet’s kit is the closest thing to public objection. It appears as a sincere statement about the human rights abuses surrounding the tournament. For me, however, it is disingenuous, insulting and deeply unDanish. 

Normally no BS
Humility and sincerity are at the core of Denmark’s society. People are polite, direct and modest. Initially coming from Britain, I was shocked by what I perceived as rude Danes. I would stupidly send very British emails to administrators at Aarhus University filled with indirect questions and long paragraphs . 

They were so polite and formal they’d leave them confused about what I was actually trying to say: *Posh English accent* “Dearest Sir and/or Madam, I was wondering if there was any possibility you could help locate a department here I can…blah… blah… Rule Britannia.” 

I would then receive an abrupt and blunt phone call from a woman called Helle asking: “What do you want?” (Fun fact: all administrators at Aarhus University are 45 and called Helle.)

Her call would be sudden with no BS and I initially found it very rude, but actually it was not. She was irritated but doing her best to help me; Danish directness is politeness. (And I later came to understand that saying “Hvad?” in Danish is not half-as-rude as its English cousin “What?” and most Helles are directly translating.)

Pre-meeting meetings
Over the years I have grown fond of this directness. I will not kiss too much ass (or arse) though. To ensure that goals are achieved, the culture here does also call for forventningsafstemning (expectation synchronisation).

Essentially that’s a pre-meeting about the upcoming meeting to check that every member of the meeting has the same expectations about that meeting, so that when they meet, the meeting will be a success. 

It can take a lifetime to be so brutally inclusive. I have been at staff meetings that felt eternal. We would talk and talk for hours in circles. Meetings where time and space no longer made sense, where no-one in the room could even remember what did we start talking about? What time is it? What day is it? Was there LSD in the kaffekande?

Promotional protest?
Hummel stated that the “Denmark jerseys for the upcoming World Cup have been designed as a protest against Qatar and its human rights record.” 

They are not boycotting the event – they will still be there. Their protest is a slightly faded logo on a 100 percent polyester top – a protest you can buy at Landsholdsshoppen for 600 kroner with fri fragt, gratis retur and levering in one to three days. 

This isn’t a protest, it’s highlighting an issue, pretending to care and exploiting the situation. The Danes have a term for such unprincipled behavior: dårlig stil. It’s like a vegan explaining the environmental destruction of the meat industry before getting caught eating a shawarma. If Hummel were serious, they would remove their logo all-together.

If ol’ Helle broke loose
It’s at times like these that I’d welcome a little of Helle’s fearless sincerity. The world can see what a monster the World Cup has become – it is not just the responsibility of this country but all 211 member nations to boycott. 

From a football-loving country that has a real chance of winning, what a statement it would be if Denmark just walked away. 

“Vinde verdensmesterskabet?” I can imagine Kasper Hjulmand asking. “Not under these conditions. We had a forventningsafstemning with DBU and the players. Let us do this in 2026 without all the horror. Vi ses i Nordamerika.”