FIFA’s leadership team has responded to the continued increase in negative sentiment towards this month’s World Cup in Qatar with a glowing appraisal of the host nation.
One day after FIFA president Gianni Infantino called for teams to focus on the tournament, rather than “every ideological or political battle that exists”, the governing body’s secretary-general Fatma Samoura has declared Qatari people as “the most hospitable people on earth”.
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Despite homosexuality being illegal in the tiny gulf nation, Samoura is insisting that everyone attending the World Cup, which kicks off on November 20, will be welcomed with open arms.
“No matter your race, your religion, your social and sexual orientation, you are most welcome, and Qataris are ready to receive you with the best hospitality that you can imagine,” Samoura said.
“People can consider Qatar as a conservative society, like my own country in Senegal.
“But let me tell you one thing: Qataris are the most hospitable people you can find on earth.”
Samoura also made the perplexing claim that Qatar should be considered a model for other nations to follow when it comes to improving human rights issues.
Qatar’s tournament organisers have copped international criticism amid reports 6,500 migrant workers have died in the country since it was awarded rights to the World Cup 10 years ago.
Samoura acknowledged there had been “some challenges” but the situation was greatly improving.
“Measures have been taken over the past six years and especially by the new leadership of FIFA,” Samoura said.
“Measures have also been taken during the very hot period of the year to protect workers.
“Inspections have been carried out, on sites where workers are operating but also in the accommodation part and in hotels and restaurants where people will be going for their meals or for their accommodation.
“We have been working, over the past six years, with the International Labour Organisation, with the Building and Wood Workers’ International and with the Centre for Sport and Human Rights, and those entities are the ones saying: ‘Yes, in terms of achievement, in terms of progress, Qatar can be designated as a model to follow for other countries in the region.’”
Samoura’s bold defence of Qatar comes one week after Australia’s Socceroos took a united stand against the Middle Eastern nation in a video condemning its human rights record.
A video uploaded by the Socceroos official Twitter account quickly went viral with over 1,200 retweets at the time of writing.
“Addressing these issues is not easy. And we do not have all the answers,” the Australian players said in the video.
“We stand with FIFPro, the Building and Wood Workers International, and the International Trade Union Confederation, seeking to embed reforms and establish a lasting legacy in Qatar.
“This must include establishing a migrant resource centre, effective remedy for those who have been denied their rights, and the decriminalisation of all same-sex relationships.
“These are the basic rights that should be afforded to all and will ensure continued progress in Qatar … [and] a legacy that goes well beyond the final whistle of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”
The Socceroos acknowledged that in the decade since winning hosting rights, the extremely conservative nation has implemented a number of reforms to improve conditions for migrant workers.
Nevertheless, the Australians said Qatar hosting the World Cup has “resulted in the suffering and the harm of countless of our fellow workers.”
Qatar responded 24 hours later via a FIFA World Cup spokesman.
“We have committed every effort to ensuring that this World Cup has had a transformative impact on improving lives,” the spokesman said.
“Protecting the health, safety, security, and dignity of every worker contributing to this World Cup is our priority.
“New laws and reforms often take time to bed in, and robust implementation of labour laws is a global challenge, including in Australia.
“No country is perfect, and every country — hosts of major events or not — has its challenges.”
However, the video was somewhat controversial with the likes of conservative commentator Piers Morgan blasting the video as “virtue-signalling”.
“Fine virtue-signalling words … presume you will now be boycotting the tournament? Or don’t you guys care THAT much?” Morgan tweeted.
“Either go and play football, or don’t go. Pretending you’re outraged by a country’s morality but then actively promoting the country is hypocritical.
“I find the faux moral outrage around ‘sports-washing’ increasingly irritating. If you want to make a moral stand, fine – do it properly & boycott the event/country that offends your morality. Or shut up and play sport.”