Erling Haaland and captain Martin Odegaard led Norway’s players in a protest against Qatar’s human rights record before their opening 2022 World Cup qualifier against Gibraltar last night.
6500 migrant workers have died in Qatar in the 10 years since they were awarded the 2022 World Cup, according to The Guardian last month. Many of the dead workers were building stadiums and infrastructure in preparation for the tournament.
Homosexuality is also illegal in the country and punishable with up to three years in prison, flogging, and the death penalty under Sharia law.
“It’s about putting pressure on FIFA to be even more direct, even firmer with the authorities in Qatar, to impose stricter requirements,” Norway manager Staale Solbakken said in a pre-match press conference.
The players donned t-shirts in the warm up reading: ‘Human rights-on and off the pitch’.
— Fotballandslaget (@nff_landslag) March 24, 2021
A debate in Norway over whether to boycott the Qatar 2022 World Cup due to their human rights abuses has been gathering pace in recent weeks following the revelations by The Guardian. Some of Norway’s top flight clubs, including Rosenborg, have backed the idea and according to a poll published on Monday in newspaper Verdens Gang, 55% of Norwegians believe their country should boycott the competition, while 20% are against it.
“FIFA believes in the freedom of speech, and in the power of football as a force for good,” a statement from the football governing body said in response to last night’s events. They also confirmed that Norway would not face any sanctions.
When FIFA awarded the World Cup to Qatar, concerns over their record on LGBTQ+ rights were immediately raised. At the time, FIFA President Sepp Blatter was heavily criticised when saying gay football fans heading to Qatar “should refrain from any sexual activities.”
Last month the new Kick It Out chief executive, Tony Burnett, said holding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is akin to staging it in apartheid South Africa.
“It’s not appropriate, and what does that say to the lesbian and gay community about how seriously we take these issues when we’re prepared to support a country which thinks it’s not okay to be gay in hosting the biggest football event on the planet?” he told the PA news agency.
FIFA’s own guide on Diversity and Anti-discrimination says, “FIFA recognises its responsibility to lead the way in abolishing all forms of discrimination in our game, but also to make the most of the influence football has beyond the pitch, thereby contributing to the fight against this scourge of society”.
6500 dead migrant workers and LGBTQ+ fans, players and staff facing possible imprisonment tells another story.
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