World Cup isn’t a ‘platform of political statements’, focus on football: Qatar chief

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Qatar’s World Cup chief has told the English and Welsh football associations to focus on their teams rather than criticizing the welfare of migrants and its in-country laws, Sky News reported on Thursday.

In an interview in Doha, the capital, Nasser al-Khater also told the news platform that enduring criticism of the tournament could be considered racist.

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Football’s biggest tournament kicks off on November 20 - marking the first time the FIFA tournament has been hosted by a Middle East country - and fans from within the region and across the world are gearing up for the month-long sporting action.

It marks the culmination of a 12-year journey since Qatar won a vote by FIFA, football’s international governing body, to host the tournament.

Yet, a group of European countries, including England and Wales, have spent the World Cup build-up highlighting concerns about the suffering of migrant workers and claimed inadequacies in Qatar’s compensation funding.

Al-Khater told Sky News: “A lot of people that speak about this issue on workers’ welfare… are not experts in the industry. And they’re not experts in what they’re speaking about.”

“And I feel that they feel obliged, that they need to speak. I think they need to really read and educate themselves a little bit more about what’s happening on the ground in Qatar.”

A UEFA working group on labor rights in Qatar held talks at FIFA HQ in Switzerland on Wednesday.

“So, let’s leave that to the experts… and let us focus on football. Let the football administrators focus on their teams. And let’s just leave it at that.”

Among other concerns about international fans visiting the Muslim country, Qatar has also insisted they will be “open and tolerant” during the 29-day tournament.

Al Arabiya English reported earlier this month that a poster shared on social media that requests attendees to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar to ‘avoid dating and drinking alcohol’ was not from an official source and contains factually incorrect information, the event’s organizing committee said.

The poster – shared in English and Arabic – had warned ticketholders to “reflect your respect to the religion and culture of Qatari people” by avoiding behaviors such as drinking alcohol, immodesty, profanity, not respecting places of worship, loud music and sounds, dating, and taking people’s pictures without their permission.”

However, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy in Qatar has shared on its official account that this is not the case, saying: “Tournament organizers have been clear from the outset that everyone is welcome to visit Qatar and enjoy the FIFA World Cup 2022.”

“Qatar has always been an open, tolerant, and welcoming nation. International fans and visitors during the FIFA World Cup will get to experience this firsthand.”

Al-Katar echoed this in his interview with Sky News.

“All we ask is for people to be respectful of the culture,” he said. “At the end of the day, as long as you don’t do anything that harms other people, if you’re not destroying public property, as long as you’re behaving in a way that’s not harmful, then everybody’s welcome and you have nothing to worry about.”

Although al-Khater has said fans can display rainbow flags, he said “it’s a FIFA matter” whether approval is given for Harry Kane, the England captain, and Gareth Bale, his Welsh counterpart, to wear multicoloured “One Love” armbands that highlight discrimination.

“From what I understand, there are discussions taking place about the different political messages that are going to be,” al Khater said.

He added: “This is a sporting tournament that people want to come [to] and enjoy. Turning it into a platform of political statements I don’t think is right for the sport.”

Fans will be attending matches in eight new stadiums built around Doha. Accommodation remains available through organizers, but 95 percent of tickets have been sold, al-Khater said.

To host the World Cup, Qatar has had to open up more areas for the sale of alcohol - including outside stadiums and in fan zones - rather than containing it within hotel bars.

Beer will be made available to fans after 6.30 p.m. in fan zones, and before and after matches in the stadium compounds, and during evenings only at the official “Fan Festival” which is being held in a downtown Doha park.

Read more:

FIFA World Cup 2022: Rules football fans should know before visiting Qatar

FIFA World Cup 2022: Qatar accommodation still available for fans

Dutch government postpones Qatar trade mission over 2022 World Cup worker concerns

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