Nasser Al Khater, CEO of Qatar 2022.

Turning the World Cup into a ‘platform for political statements’ is not good for football, says Qatar boss | world news

Qatar’s World Cup chief has told the English and Welsh FAs to focus on their teams rather than demanding compensation for migrant workers.

In a wide-ranging interview in the capital Doha, Nasser Al Khater also told Sky News that the persistent criticism of the tournament could be seen as racist.

He said:

  • Gay fans will be welcome to show their affection and rainbow flags;
  • FIFA to decide on captains wearing ‘One Love’ armbands while warning against teams’ ‘political messaging’;
  • Special areas will be created to allow drunk fans to sober up; and
  • 95% of the tickets have been sold.

The Middle East’s inaugural World Cup opens on November 19, the culmination of a 12-year journey since Qatar won a vote largely tainted by football’s international governing body FIFA.

During this period, Mr Al Khater became director general of the supreme committee responsible for overseeing Qatar’s planning and was in the crosshairs of critics.

A group of European countries, including England and Wales, have spent the run-up to the World Cup highlighting concerns about the suffering of migrant workers and denouncing shortcomings in Qatar’s compensation funding.

Mr Al Khater told Sky News: “A lot of people talking about this issue of worker welfare…are not industry experts. And they’re not experts on what they’re talking about.

“And I feel like they feel compelled, that they have to talk. I think they really have to read and educate themselves a bit more about what’s happening on the ground in Qatar.”

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

“So when people come out and say, ‘Yes, we agree there has to be some sort of compensation fund,'” Mr Al Khater said, “they’re just reading a piece of paper.

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

The Lusail stadium will host the World Cup final. Photo: AP

“Be culturally sensitive”

Although World Cup organizers insist there have been only three work-related deaths at stadiums, concerns remain that more migrant workers have died on infrastructure works wider across Qatar, as each death has not been thoroughly investigated.

Mr. Al Khater referred to Qatar’s improvement of labor legislation and the introduction of a minimum wage.

But Qatar is not ready to change anti-LGBTQ+ laws to address the concerns of visiting fans, but has insisted that no one will be discriminated against during the 29-day tournament and that gay fans can stand together. hold hands.

“All we ask is that people respect the culture,” Mr Al Khater said. “At the end of the day, as long as you don’t do anything that harms others, if you don’t destroy public property, as long as you behave in a way that is not harmful, then everyone is welcome and you have nothing to fear.”

Although Mr Al Khater said fans can display rainbow flags, he said “it’s a matter of FIFA” if approval is given to Harry Kane, the England captain, and to Gareth Bale, his Welsh counterpart, to wear multicolored “One Love” armbands that showcase discrimination.

“My understanding is that there are discussions going on about the different political messages that are going to be,” Mr Al Khater said.

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

95% of tickets sold

Fans will watch matches in eight new stadiums built around Doha. Accommodation remains available from organizers but 95% of tickets have been sold, Mr Al Khater said.

To host the World Cup, Qatar had to open more alcohol sales areas – including outside stadiums and in fan zones – rather than remaining limited to hotel bars.

Mass gatherings of loud, drunken fans are uncharted territory for the first Muslim nation to host a World Cup.

Mr Al Khater said: “There are plans in place for people to sober up if they’ve had too much to drink.

“It’s a place to make sure they protect themselves, they don’t harm anyone else.”

Mr Al Khater sidestepped lingering concerns over whether vote buying secured World Cup hosting rights in the 2010 vote, saying he felt Qatar had been unfairly targeted in general.

“We took the challenge on ourselves and we took on that challenge,” he said.

When asked if he felt the criticism was racist, he replied: “I’m not going to get into other people’s intentions, I’m not going to get into other people’s minds and souls.

“But you know, who knows, maybe.”

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