People “cannot accept that a small country in the Middle East” is hosting the World Cup and those who criticize the tournament are “arrogant”, Qatar’s foreign minister has told Sky News.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani called negative media coverage of the upcoming tournament “misinformation” in an exclusive interview with Sky News Middle East correspondent Alistair Bunkall.
“Preaching from a distance is not a solution,” he said.
“Call to boycott the World Cup, or those who do not come to the world Cupit’s their decision in the end, but why deprive people and the public from attending and enjoying the World Cup.”
Asked about the rival nations’ criticism of the hosts, he said: “What kind of message are they sending to their own audience?
“What about their own problems in their countries, that they close their eyes? Honestly, not me or the Qatari people only, but there are many people around the world who see this as a feeling of arrogance.
“A feeling of people who cannot accept a small country in the Middle East won the bid to host the World Cup.”
In the 12 years since Qatar received the tournament, concerns have repeatedly been raised about its human rights record, the treatment of the migrant workers who built the stadiums and the LGBTQ community.
His foreign minister’s comments come after English and Welsh football officials said they would continue to campaign on human rights issues despite FIFA appeals to keep teams out of politics.
Both teams said they would wear OneLove rainbow armbands in solidarity with LGBTQ people.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino and General Secretary Fatma Samoura wrote to the 32 competing nations last week: “Please don’t let football be dragged into all the ideological or political battles that exist.”
Public affection forbidden between men and women too
Asked about LGBTQ supporters traveling to Qatar, Mr Bin Abdulrahman al Thani said public displays of affection are prohibited between all people – not just same-sex couples.
But pressed on earlier comments that fans will be allowed to hold hands, he added: “Holding hands is not a public display of affection as far as I know.”
Asked about the FA chairman’s announcement Prince William will not visit Qatarthe minister said “he decided not to come because of his schedule”.
“I hope his schedule will allow it, and that he will come and support the England team,” he added.
Opposition Leader Sir Keir Starmer is another high profile figure who is not present.
Klopp on footballers’ comments on Qatar
Why is the Qatar World Cup so controversial?
With seven of the eight stadiums built from scratch, human rights groups have consistently pointed to Qatar’s mistreatment of the migrant workers who built them.
In particular, they condemned the country’s “kafala system” – a set of labor laws that allow Qatari individuals or companies to confiscate workers’ passports and prevent them from leaving the country.
Reports of the number of migrant deaths range from a few dozen to several thousand over the 12 years of preparation for the tournament.
Asked about the deaths of workers and the compensation fund that has been set up for their families, Mr Bin Abdulrahman al Thani said it had “worked very effectively for the past two years”.
“Already about $350 million has been distributed in recent years for workers and it has proven to be effective,” he said.
“If there are any problems or shortcomings in the execution of the current fund, they should come and talk to us to improve it and not duplicate it,” he added.