Qatar has faced criticism for its treatment of migrant workers, criminalization of same-sex relationships, and poor human rights record. In response to the Australian video, Qataris stated, “No country is perfect, and every country… has its challenges.”
Australia is the first team to issue a group statement condemning Qatar’s human rights record.
In a video statement, 16 players, including ex-Arsenal and Brighton goalkeeper Matt Ryan, criticized the host country’s treatment of migrant workers and the LGBTQ+ community.
“Football should be defined by universal values. Respect, dignity, trust, and courage are examples of values “Ryan, the captain, stated.”We aspire to embody these values when we represent our country.” Since being awarded this winter’s finals in 2010, Qatar has been chastised for its treatment of migrant workers, criminalization of same-sex relationships, and poor human rights record.
The tournament’s organizing committee told Sky News that “no country is perfect,” but that its priority was “protecting the health, safety, security, and dignity of every worker contributing to this World Cup.”
In the Socceroos clip, several players, including Jackson Irvine, Bailey Wright, and Jamie Maclaren, along with the president of the Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) union, Alex Wilkinson, took turns to make a brief statement.
The kafala system – which regulated the lives of migrant labourers and allowed employers to take workers’ passports and stop them leaving the country – has been partially dismantled over the past few 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 fellow workers,” said midfielder Jackson Irvine.
“These migrant workers who have suffered are not just numbers,” added Mr Wilkinson. “Like the migrants that have shaped our country and our football, they possess the same courage and determination to build a better life” The team said it is working with several organisations to “establish a lasting legacy in Qatar” and called for the country to set up a migrant resource centre. It also called for the decriminalisation of all same-sex relationships and “effective remedy” for those who have been denied their rights to help improve the situation in the country.” These are the basic rights that should be afforded to all and will ensure continued progress in Qatar,” the team stressed.
“This is how we can ensure a legacy that goes well beyond the final whistle of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”
One of the most high-profile footballers to tell the world he is gay is Australian Josh Cavallo, who plays for Adelaide United.
Earlier this month, the former England striker Gary Lineker said he knows two gay Premier League players and he hopes they will come out during the World Cup to send a strong message Qatar.
Lineker was one of the key figures who led criticism of Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on Wednesday, after he suggested LGBT football fans heading to the country should be “respectful of the host nation”.
Mr Cleverly urged fans to show “a little bit of flex and compromise” and to “respect the culture of your host nation”, before Downing Street distanced itself from his comments.
Lineker wrote: “Whatever you do, don’t do anything gay. Is that the message?”
In Group D, Australia will face the defending champions France, Denmark, and Tunisia.
What does Qatar have to say?
When Sky News approached the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, a spokesperson said, “We commend footballers for using their platforms to raise awareness for important issues.”
“We have made every effort to ensure that this World Cup had a transformative impact on improving lives, particularly for those involved in the construction of the competition and non-competition venues for which we are responsible.”
“Our top priority is to protect the health, safety, security, and dignity of every World Cup worker.”
“This is achieved through our commitment to holding contractors accountable via our worker welfare standards, continuous work on enhancing health and safety practices, creating and developing worker representation forums in collaboration with international unions and experts, robust auditing that includes an independent third party monitor, working with contractors to ensure workers who paid recruitment fees are entitled to repayment, and ensuring that these policies lead to a change in work culture that lasts far beyond 2022.”
The Qatari government’s labour reforms are acknowledged by the ILO, ITUC, and numerous human rights organisations as the benchmark in the region. New laws and reforms often take time to bed in, and robust implementation of labour laws is a global challenge, including in Australia.
“No country is perfect, and every country, whether it hosts major events or not, faces challenges.
“This World Cup has left a legacy of progress, better practice, and better lives – a legacy that will endure long after the final ball is kicked.”