2022 World Cup in Qatar: “ill-founded” criticism, according to tournament chief Hassan Al-Thawadi
The general secretary of the Qatar 2022 World Cup has said criticism from players and coaches is “misinformed” and the nation “should not apologize” for hosting the tournament.
Qatar has been heavily criticized for the country’s human rights record.
There are strict anti-LGBTIQ+ laws in Qatar, while there are also concerns about the treatment of migrant workers.
“Some people made statements which I think were misinformed,” Hassan Al-Thawadi told BBC Sport.
Speaking to BBC sports editor Dan Roan, Al-Thawadi added: “We shouldn’t apologize for our ambitions to host this tournament as we are a football loving region.
“We are crazy about football and crazy about football like everywhere else. We have the legitimate ambition to introduce our region to the rest of the world and to change people’s perception of us.”
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and human rights organization Amnesty International says women and LGBTIQ+ people “continue to face discrimination in law and in practice”.
LGBTIQ+ groups (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer or questioning) commit to Fifa for the 2022 World Cup say “areas of concern” remain and that assurances about the safety of LGBTIQ+ people in the Gulf nation “have not been adequate”.
England manager Gareth Southgate said it would be “very unfortunate” if some fans did. feel they can’t attend the World Cup due to concerns over their safety, while Captain Harry Kane said he wanted to ‘shed some light’ on the issues surrounding the Qatar tournament.
Dutch manager Louis van Gaal suggested hosting the event in the Middle Eastern country was on “money” and “commercial interests”.
On how Qatar’s laws can be reconciled with football’s focus on inclusivity and anti-discrimination, Al-Thawadi said: “We have always said that everyone is welcome. This what we will do is that everyone will be safe, everyone will feel safe.
“[We are] to invite the world to come and visit Qatar, to visit the Arab world and to understand again, for us, that we are a relatively conservative country, which means that public displays of affection are not part of our culture.
“But hospitality and welcoming people from different parts of the world to our country is part of our culture.”
He added: “We have been doing this over the past few years and we have people from different backgrounds moving to Qatar. I think the nature of these tournaments is that they allow people from different backgrounds to be able to discover and understand different cultures.”
Amnesty International, which has claimed that migrant workers are exploited in Qatar, has appealed to England players, staff and supporters to highlight human rights concerns ahead of the World Cup, which kicks off on November 21.
A report in the Guardian in February 2021, said 6,500 migrant workers have died in the country since the World Cup was awarded in 2010.
Qatar 2022 disputes these figures but has not commented on them publicly, while the Qatari government said in a statement: “The death rate among these communities is within the expected range for population size and demographics.”
When asked if the 2022 tournament was sportwashing, Al-Thawadi replied that “that couldn’t be further from the truth”.
“If you look at the progress that has been made over the past 12 years, I think that in itself eliminates the concept of sportswashing because real progress has been made on the pitch compared to that,” Al-Thawadi said. .
“There is always more work to be done. Just as there is more work to be done in England, just as there is more work to be done in the rest [of the world]. I don’t think any country in the world today can claim to have the ideal system in place.
“You always have to make progress. We recognize that progress must be made, but what we have asked for is also to recognize the work that has been done.”
Qatar claims that between 2014 and 2020 there were 37 fatalities among workers building World Cup stadiums – 34 of which were “non-work related”.
Eight new stadiums have been built for the World Cup in Qatar, including the 80,000-capacity Lusail Stadium, which is the tournament’s largest venue and will host the final.
In 2016 Amnesty International accused Qatar of using forced labor and since 2017 the government has introduced measures to prevent migrant workers from working in excessive heat, limit their working hours and improve conditions in labor camps. workers.
In a statement, the players’ representative organization Fifpro said that “workers continue to be subjected to abusive practices” and that “unscrupulous employers” are “not held responsible”.
“Workers in the most vulnerable positions in countries like India, Bangladesh, Nepal, the Philippines, Pakistan and some African countries still fear reprisals if they speak out against exploitation, unpaid wages and long hours. of work,” said Fifpro.
“In terms of football, it’s not even halftime. And every achievement gained for the workers remains fragile. Among migrants in Qatar, fear is widespread that when the spotlight on Qatar fades after the Cup of the world, the improvements obtained will be extinguished.”
On migrant deaths, Al-Thawadi said: “No matter what you do, nothing will compensate for the loss of life.
“But we have done our best to be able to provide the appropriate compensation to the families.
“What we have been doing is investigating every death, trying to find the root cause and making sure these tragedies don’t happen, and trying to take action to prevent such tragedies from happening.”
At Thursday’s Fifa Congress meeting in Qatar, Football Federation of Norway president Lise Klaveness said the World Cup had been awarded by Fifa “in an unacceptable manner with unacceptable consequences”.
“Human rights, equality, democracy, the fundamental interests of football, only became part of the starting XI many years later,” she said.
Klaveness said that last year Norway debated a boycott of the World Cup, but instead voted for dialogue and pressure through Fifa as the best way to bring about the necessary changes.