8 Nov 2022

Fifa asks nations to "now focus on the football"

6:54 am on 8 November 2022

Ten European football associations say "human rights are universal and apply everywhere" after Fifa asked nations competing at the Qatar World Cup to "now focus on the football".

The Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.

Khalifa International Stadium, Doha Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The world governing body wrote to all 32 teams following a controversial build-up to the tournament, which starts on 20 November.

Host Qatar has been criticised for its stance on same-sex relationships, its human rights record and its treatment of migrant workers.

The Fifa letter was criticised by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and LGBTQI campaigners in England and Wales.

While acknowledging the "significant progress" made by Qatar, a joint statement issued by members of the Uefa Working Group on human rights and labour rights said it would "continue to press" Fifa for answers on outstanding issues surrounding migrant workers.

"We acknowledge, and welcome, as we have done in the past, that significant progress has been made by Qatar, particularly with regards to the rights of migrant workers, with the impact of legislative changes demonstrated in the International Labour Organisation's recent reports," said the statement.

"We welcome the assurances given by the Qatari Government and by Fifa regarding the safety, security, and inclusion of all fans who travel to the World Cup, including LGBTQI fans. We also recognise that every country has issues and challenges and we agree with Fifa that diversity is a strength.

"However, embracing diversity and tolerance also means supporting human rights. Human rights are universal and they apply everywhere."

FIFA President Gianni Infantino in Qatar.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Fifa's letter, signed by its president Gianni Infantino and secretary general Fatma Samoura, urged that football should not be "dragged" into ideological or political "battles" and it should not be "handing out moral lessons".

Peaceful protests have been planned by some players, while England's Harry Kane and nine other captains of European teams will be wearing 'One Love' armbands. to promote diversity and inclusion.

Denmark will wear "toned-down" shirts to protest against Qatar, with kit provider Hummel saying it "does not wish to be visible" in a tournament it claims "has cost thousands of lives", while Australia's squad have released a video urging Qatar to abolish its laws on same-sex relationships.

England's FA has backed calls for compensation to be awarded for "any injury or death related to any construction project" for the World Cup.

"We will continue to support the momentum for positive, progressive change and continue to advocate for a conclusive outcome and update on the two key outstanding issues we have been discussing with Fifa for a long time," the Uefa Working Group's statement continued.

people, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, gay and love concept - close up of happy lesbian couple holding hands over rainbow flag background

Rainbow community Photo: 123RF

"Fifa has repeatedly committed to deliver concrete answers on these issues - the compensation fund for migrant workers, and the concept of a migrant workers centre to be created in Doha - and we will continue to press for these to be delivered.

"We believe in the power of football to make further positive and credible contributions to progressive sustainable change in the world."

At the weekend, protests were held at Bundesliga games in Germany with fans holding up banners in the crowd.

Qatar's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani has said criticism of his country's hosting of the World Cup amounts to "hypocrisy", while calls for a boycott are "are being peddled by a very small number of people, in 10 countries at most, who are not at all representative of the rest of the world".

And in an interview with Sky yesterday, he added people "cannot accept a small country from the Middle East" hosting the World Cup.

"Preaching from a distance is not a solution," he said.