FIFA was left red-faced by an attack on the decision to select Qatar

FIFA and World Cup organizers were embarrassed yesterday when they were attacked for disregarding human rights.

Ianni Infantino, the FIFA President, and Qatari officials looked on in embarrassment as the Norwegian Football Association’s President, Lise Klaveness, warned that the future of football was in jeopardy.

Appearing on stage at an official FIFA event, Klaveness criticized the decision to award the tournament to the Gulf nation, citing the rights of migrant workers and laws criminalizing same-sex relationships.

“In 2010, the World Cups (of 2018 and 2022) were awarded by FIFA in an unacceptable manner with unacceptable consequences,” Klaveness told the FIFA Congress.

“Human rights, equality, democracy, the core interests of football, were only many years later in the starting XI. FIFA has addressed these issues, but there is still a long way to go.”

Her outburst prompted an immediate rebuke from Honduras’ Jose Ernesto Mejia and the Qatari organizers, both of whom suggested on stage that Klaveness was speaking out of turn. The tense scenes came after the annual FIFA summit had already been criticized for allowing Russian representatives to attend.

Alexey Sorokin, the head of Russia’s organizing committee for the 2018 World Cup, had spoken out defiantly about his presence, declaring: “We’re not hiding” while listening to speeches, including one from Ukraine.

Klaveness voiced her criticism after a week in which human rights monitors questioned progress on Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers and LGBT laws.

Players’ union FIFPRO is pushing for a one-stop shop for migrant workers to ensure they are aware of the laws passed to combat the kafala system that binds foreign workers to their employers. However, same-sex relationships remain criminalized under Qatari laws, raising concerns about the welfare of LGBT visitors.

“We cannot ignore the calls for change,” Klaveness said. “How FIFA organizes the game has so much to say about how football is perceived – in every confederation and in every association. FIFA must be a role model. My dreams are still about football. Football for boys and girls, all colors, straight and queer.”

Hassan Al Thawadi, the secretary-general of the Qatar committee overseeing the conduct of the World Cup, criticized the comments.

“For decades, our region and country has too often been defined through a prism of conflict, war and the resulting stereotypes and assumptions that result from a lack of familiarity and understanding that have highlighted the divisions between East and West,” he said.

“The most important legacy of this World Cup will be to counteract this criticism.”

Klaveness also cited FIFA’s delays in taking action over the war in Ukraine, adding: “We now have a brutal war in Europe. As in wars on every continent, innocent people are being killed in senseless power struggles. A former World Cup host has invaded the land of one of our members.

“FIFA was initially hesitant. International pressure forced real action.

“Instead of following, FIFA must lead. I fear our stadiums will be empty going forward if we overlook the urgency of the current moment.”

During the congress, a video of Andriy Pavelko, the president of the Football Union of Ukraine, wearing a flak jacket, was broadcast in central Kyiv.

Speaking to Russian officials, Pavelko said “the missiles fired by the aggressors from one of the largest armies in the world” caused “football to take a backseat in our country.”

“This has caused a deep crisis and I thank the federations that have supported and helped us, especially the young players, to leave their country to escape the war,” he said.

In response to the video, Sorokin told reporters: “I worked with him (Pavelko) for a very long time and we regret that he has these emotions. It’s difficult for them, we understand that, but I’m not here to discuss politics or military activities or anything like that.”

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] FIFA was left red-faced by an attack on the decision to select Qatar

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