11 July 2024

People calling for a boycott of the World Cup in Qatar are from a handful of countries that do not represent the rest of the world which is looking forward to the tournament, Qatar‘s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani has said.

Qatar is the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup but the small nation has come under intense pressure in recent years for its treatment of foreign workers and restrictive social laws.

The country’s human rights record led to calls for teams and officials to boycott the Nov. 20-Dec. 18 tournament but Sheikh Mohammed said they hold no water as tickets are almost sold out.

“The reasons given for boycotting the World Cup do not add up. There is a lot of hypocrisy in these attacks, which ignore all that we have achieved,” Sheikh Mohammed told Le Monde.

“They 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. It is frankly unfortunate.

“The reality is that the world is looking forward to this celebration. Over 97% of the tickets have been sold.”

Several participating teams such as EnglandAustraliaDenmark and the Netherlands have highlighted the plight of migrant workers in Qatar.

After years of pressure from human rights groups, Qatar changed its labour laws to dismantle much of its “kafala” sponsorship system, absolving workers of the need to get the permission of the employer who sponsored their visa in order to change jobs or leave the country.

Last year, Qatar‘s government denied claims in a report by human rights organisation Amnesty International that thousands of migrant workers were being trapped and exploited.

Sheikh Mohammed admitted “there are still flaws” they are attempting to fix but also accused countries of having “double standards”.

“Why do we systematically blame our government for these problems, whereas in Europe, the slightest incident is blamed on the company?” he said.

“I think there are some people who don’t accept that a small country in the Middle East is hosting such a global event.”

With less than three weeks before the World Cup kicks off, world soccer governing body FIFA has urged teams to focus on the tournament in Qatar and not let the sport be dragged into ideological or political “battles”.

The letter was criticised by Amnesty, which has led calls for FIFA to compensate migrant workers in Qatar for human rights abuses by setting aside $440 million.

Sheikh Mohammed also said that although the stadiums are air conditioned, it will not be operational during matches due to Qatar‘s winter climate.

“Temperatures in Qatar in November-December are almost cooler than the temperatures in Europe during the summer. So, air conditioning will not be used,” he said.

By Reuters