Football players and coaches speak out over Qatar’s poor human rights record

Football players and coaches speak out over Qatar’s poor human rights record
Tottenham's Harry Kane during the English Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, on 13 February 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / ANDY RAIN)

More football players and coaches are speaking out against Fifa’s decision to take the 2022 World Cup finals to Qatar.

England’s players would aim to use their platform to shine a light on issues surrounding the tournament later this year, captain Harry Kane said during the week.

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar. Furthermore, a report by Amnesty International found that thousands of migrant workers in the country were being exploited – which Qatar denied.

England, who have already qualified for the World Cup, will play friendlies against Switzerland and Côte d’Ivoire this month. Kane said the squad met on 22 March to discuss the issues ahead of the tournament, which begins in November.

“We’ve never shied away from important issues, and we’ve always had our opinions and tried to show unity in anything we’ve done. That’s what will happen now over this camp and the next camp to try to help in any way we can,” Kane told reporters.

“As players, we didn’t choose where this World Cup was going to be. But what it has done is it has shone a light on important issues which might not have come to light if the World Cup wasn’t there.

“We have to try to help as much as possible to understand the issues and the situations. We’re no experts in that field at the moment in terms of what we know but as always we try to … use our platform to help in any way we can.”

Human Rights Watch has said Qatari laws discriminate against women, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals, and the 48-page report by Amnesty said practices such as withholding migrant workers’ salaries and charging them to change jobs were still rife.

The government of Qatar has said in the past that its labour system is a work in progress but has denied the accusations in the Amnesty report.

England team manager Gareth Southgate said earlier this week he was unhappy that some fans would not feel able to travel to Qatar for the World Cup because of concerns over human rights issues.

Kane added that he and his team members would discuss the issues in greater depth and suggested he could speak to other national team captains with a view to taking a unified stance.

“As a nation we want our fans to enjoy the tournament as much as we hopefully enjoy the tournament. And we want them to feel safe and free to watch games how they please and act how they want to act,” Kane said.

“There’s still a lot of progress to be made. But hopefully all of us … can try to make change with the platforms that we have.”

England hosts Switzerland on 26 March before playing Côte d’Ivoire three days later.

Netherlands national soccer team head coach Louis van Gaal during a training session in Zeist, the Netherlands, on 30 August 2021. (Photo: EPA-EFE / MAURICE VAN STEEN)

Dutch coach says Fifa is only motivated by money

Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal said it was ridiculous that the World Cup was in Qatar, accusing Fifa of taking the tournament to the Middle East emirate for money and commercial reasons.

Van Gaal said the world soccer governing body’s reasons for awarding the finals to Qatar, where his side will compete between 21 November and 18 December, were spurious.

“We will be playing in a country where Fifa say we are going to help develop football. That is bullshit,” he told a news conference during the week as his side began preparations for friendlies against Denmark and Germany in the next eight days.

The friendlies form part of the Dutch preparations for the finals after they qualified last November.

“The tournament in Qatar is about money and commercial interest. That is what matters to Fifa,” Van Gaal said.

Van Gaal (70) said he was part of a commission within the Dutch football governing body KNVB that meets every month to evaluate the ongoing situation in Qatar with regard to human rights.

The KNVB has been among the few football associations to criticise human rights and working conditions in Qatar.

“The KNVB has never been in favour of holding the World Cup in Qatar and, of course, certainly doesn’t approve of the way in which migrant workers are treated there,” it said in a statement last year after a visit to the country.

Qatar has faced international scrutiny over the treatment of workers ever since it won the rights in 2010 to host the first World Cup in the Middle East.

Last year, Dutch players, along with those of Germany and Norway, wore shirts before World Cup qualifiers voicing concerns over human rights in Qatar.

Britain’s The Guardian newspaper said it calculated that there had been at least 6,500 migrant worker deaths in Qatar since the country won the hosting rights.

Qatar said the reported deaths were within the expected range for the size and demographics of the population of workers concerned, and that the mortality rate had consistently declined since 2010 due to health and safety reforms. Reuters/DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.


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