World Cup 2022: 10 European football associations respond to Fifa’s ‘focus on football’ letter

Captain Harry Kane wearing a rainbow armband during a match in England
England captain Harry Kane will wear the ‘One Love’ armband at the World Cup in Qatar

Ten European football associations including England and Wales say “human rights are universal and apply everywhere” after Fifa asked countries competing in the Qatar World Cup to “focus now on the football”.

The world’s governing body write to all 32 teams following a controversial pre-tournament period, which begins on 20 November.

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

Fifa’s letter was criticized by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and LGBT+ campaigners in England and Wales.

Acknowledging the “significant progress” made by Qatar, a joint statement issued by members of Uefa’s Human and Labor Rights Working Group said it would “continue to press” Fifa for solutions on outstanding issues in related to migrant workers.

“We recognise, and welcome, as we have done in the past, that significant progress has been made by Qatar, particularly in relation to the rights of migrant workers, with the impact of legislative changes shown in reports recent International Labor Organisation.” said the statement.

“We welcome the assurances given by the Government of Qatar and Fifa regarding the safety and inclusion of all fans traveling to the World Cup, including LGBTQ+ fans. We also recognize that every country has problems and challenges and we agree with Fifa. that diversity is strength.

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

Fifa’s letter, signed by its president Gianni Infantino and general secretary Fatma Samoura, urged that football should not be “dragged” into ideological or political “battles” and should not be “giving moral lessons”.

Peaceful protests are planned by some players, while England’s Harry Kane and nine other captains of European teams will wear ‘One Love’ armbands. promoting diversity and inclusion.

Denmark will wear “toned-down” shirts. to protest against Qatar, with kit provider Hummel saying he “does not wish to be visible” at a tournament he claims has “cost thousands of lives”, while the Australian squad has video release urged Qatar to scrap its laws on same-sex relationships.

The FA has backed calls for compensation to be awarded for “any injury or death in connection with any construction project” for the World Cup.

“We will continue to support the momentum for positive, progressive change and continue to advocate for a final outcome and update on the two remaining key issues that we have been discussing for a long time with Fifa,” the statement continued. Uefa Working Group.

“FIFA has repeatedly committed to providing concrete solutions on these issues – the compensation fund for migrant workers, and the concept of a migrant worker center to be created in Doha – and we will continue to press for i’ these be provided.

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

On Saturday, protests took place at Bundesliga games in Germany with fans holding flags in the crowd.

Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, has said that criticism of his country’s handling of the World Cup amounts to “hypocrisy”, while calls for a boycott “are peddled by many very few people, in 10 countries. at most, that they do not at all represent the rest of the world”.

And in an interview with Airexternal link on Sunday, he added that people “cannot accept a small Middle Eastern country” hosting the World Cup.

“Preaching from a distance is not an answer,” he said.

Bayern Munich fans unveil a Qatar World Cup flag during the Bundesliga match between Hertha BSC and FC Bayern München at Olympiastadion on November 05, 2022 in Berlin, Germany
Bayern Munich fans unfurled a flag protesting the Qatar World Cup after Fifa wrote to all 32 nations asking them to ‘put football first’

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BBC sports editor, Dan Roan

Although written diplomatically, this joint statement is a firm and defiant response to Fifa’s highly ‘stick to football’ letter last week, which took the FA and FAW by surprise , disappointed many in the sport, and was widely condemned by human rights groups. and LGBT+ activists.

The intention of these 10 federations in western Europe is to firmly reaffirm the right of their teams to take a stand on social issues in Qatar, such as the plan by England and Wales players to wear rainbow armbands as part of an anti-discrimination campaign in the country. where it is illegal to be gay.

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And it is a clear rejection of Fifa’s request that political and human rights concerns are put aside for the duration of the World Cup in the midst of a growing era marred by a host of ethical and geopolitical debates, and an increasingly aggressive approach. from the hosts towards their judges.

There is also a sense of the growing frustration felt by many within European football over what the statement refers to as “two key unresolved issues”; Migrant Workers Center and compensation fund for those killed or injured during World Cup preparations.

While acknowledging “significant” labor reforms, members of Uefa’s Human Rights Working Group had expected Fifa to help achieve progress on both of these cases several months ago, and will hope that this will spur them to an effort from the new.

With the start of the tournament just days away, it remains to be seen whether this statement helps, but it certainly reminds us of the tension and rift that surrounds the preparations final for the event.

More reading on the Qatar 2022 World Cup

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