Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organizers have responded to criticism of the Socceroos over the country’s human rights record, praising a group of players for raising awareness of the issues ahead of the tournament, acknowledging that “no country is perfect”.
Sixteen Australian players expressed their concern about the “suffering” of migrant workers and the inability of LGBTQ+ people in Qatar to “love the person they choose” in a collective video released on Thursday.
They acknowledged that some progress had been made in Qatar ahead of next month’s launch, but the country’s implementation of reforms “remains inconsistent and requires improvement”.
The Supreme Committee for Supply and Legacy – the organizers of the tournament – responded to the players’ statement and the issue of workers’ rights.
“We commend footballers who use their platforms to raise awareness of important issues,” the committee said.
“We have made every effort to ensure that this World Cup has a transformative impact on improving lives, especially for those involved in the construction of the sporting and non-sporting venues we are responsible for.
“Protecting the health, safety, security and dignity of every worker involved in this World Cup is our priority.”
Qatar’s human rights record has come under scrutiny in the run-up to the showpiece event, with several protests planned for November 20 once football kicks off.
The Socceroos’ Group D opponents, Denmark, have produced an all-black jersey to honor the workers who died building stadiums and infrastructure, while players from nine teams will wear ‘One Love’ armbands.
Organizers did not directly address the issue of same-sex relationships raised by the Socceroos players in the video – which remains illegal in Qatar – but said: “This World Cup has contributed to a legacy of progress, better practice and better lives – a legacy that will live on long after of how the last ball will be scored.”
Any change in workplace culture may not be seen immediately, they said, and the introduction of new laws was not just a problem for Qatar.
“New laws and reforms often take time to bed in, and robust enforcement of labor laws is a global challenge, including in Australia,” the spokesperson added.
“No country is perfect, and every country, whether it hosts major events or not, has its challenges.”
The Socceroos open their Group D campaign against France on November 23, before playing Tunisia three days later and Denmark on December 1.