Australia have become the first team to issue a group statement criticizing Qatar for its poor human rights record.
Addressing the issue in a video, 16 players, including former Arsenal and Brighton goalkeeper Matt Ryan, took aim at the host country’s treatment of migrant workers and the LGBTQ+ community.
“There are universal values that should define football. Values such as respect, dignity, trust and courage,” captain Ryan said.
“When we represent our nation, we aspire to embody these values.”
Qatar has been criticized for its treatment of migrant workers, the criminalization of same-sex relationships and its poor human rights record since winning this winter’s final in 2010.
In the Socceroos clip, several players, including Jackson Irvine, Bailey Wright and Jamie Maclaren, as well as Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) union president Alex Wilkinson took turns making a brief statement.
They acknowledged that conditions have improved for workers in the Gulf state, but noted that the implementation of reforms “remains inconsistent and requires improvement”.
The kafala system – which regulated the lives of migrant workers and allowed employers to take workers’ passports and prevent them from leaving the country – has been partially dismantled in recent years.
“A legacy that goes beyond the final whistle”
“We have learned that the decision to host the World Cup in Qatar has resulted in the suffering and harm of countless of our colleagues,” said midfielder Jackson Irvine.
“These migrant workers who have suffered are not just numbers,” Wilkinson added.
“Like the migrants who have shaped our country and our football, they have the same courage and the same determination to build a better life”
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The team said it was working with several organizations to “establish a lasting legacy in Qatar” and called on the country to set up a resource center for migrants.
He also called for the decriminalization of all same-sex relationships and an “effective remedy” for those who have been disenfranchised to help improve the situation in the country.
“These are the basic rights that should be granted to all and will ensure continued progress in Qatar,” the team stressed.
“This is how we can ensure a legacy that goes far beyond the final whistle of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”
‘Don’t do anything gay, is that the message?’
Australian Josh Cavallo, who plays for Adelaide United, is one of the most prominent footballers to tell the world he is gay.
Earlier this month, former England striker Gary Lineker said he knows two gay Premier League players and he hopes they come out during the World Cup to send a strong message to Qatar.
Lineker was one of the key figures who led critic of Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on Wednesday, after suggesting that LGBT football fans traveling to the country should be “respectful of the host country”.
Mr Cleverly urged fans to show “a little flexibility and compromise” and to “respect the culture of your host country”, before Downing Street distanced itself from his comments.
Lineker wrote, “Whatever you do, don’t do anything gay. Is that the message?”
Australia will face defending champions France, Denmark and Tunisia in Group D.