The Qatar World Cup’s top organiser, Hassan Al Thawadi, has accused the Norway FA President Lise Klaveness of failing to educate herself on the country’s human rights record after she delivered a damning address at Thursday’s FIFA Congress in Doha.
Klaveness took to the stage at the 72nd FIFA Congress to condemn the organisation’s 2010 decision to award the Gulf State this year’s World Cup before highlighting a variety of issues including the treatment of migrant workers and concerns among the LGBTQ+ community over travelling to Qatar for November’s finals.
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“In 2010, the World Cup was awarded by FIFA in unacceptable ways with unacceptable consequences,” Klaveness said.
“Human rights, equality, democracy, the core interests of football, were not in the starting XI until many years later. These basic rights were pressured on as substitutes, mainly by outside voices. FIFA has later addressed these issues, but there is still a long way to go.
“The migrant workers injured or families of those who died in the build-up to the World Cup should be cared for. FIFA, all of us, must now take all necessary measures to really implement change.
“There is no room for employers who do not secure the freedom and safety of World Cup workers.
“No room for leaders that cannot host the women´s game. No room for hosts that cannot legally guarantee the safety and respect of LGBTQ+ people coming to this theatre of dreams.”
Klaveness’ speech was immediately followed by Jorge Salomon, president of the Honduras FA, whose brief address included the claim that “it is not the place” to discuss such issues.
Thawadi, chief executive of the World Cup Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, then used his platform to showcase the country’s actions, which include abolishing the kafala system [a sponsorship which gives private citizens in several Arab Gulf countries almost total control over migrant workers’ employment and immigration status] and introducing a minimum wage for workers.
“Madam President, you visit our country and made no request for a meeting,” he said. “You did not attempt to contact us and did not attempt to engage in dialogue before addressing Congress today.
“I urge everybody, we have always been open for dialogue. We have always welcomed constructive criticism, criticism that is based on discussion, understanding the issues and understanding the context of the issues and the progress of the facts on the ground.
“We will always have our doors open for anybody who wants to understand the issues, who wants to educate themselves before passing any judgement.
“On that note, I would like to inform yourselves, as well as the Norwegian Federation and anybody who has doubts about the legacy of this World Cup, that this World Cup is creating legacy. We are creating legacy before a ball has even been kicked. The International Labour Organisation has described Qatar’s reforms as historic.
“The International Trade Union Confederation considers Qatar’s updated laws as a benchmark for the region. The Building and Woodworkers’ International has compared the safety standards on World Cup sites as equal to those in Europe or North America.
“Remember that a number of these entities that I have mentioned were at one time outspoken adversaries of ours but through taking time to understand the complexities of the situation on the ground and through a shared commitment to improving lives, those who were once adversaries became allies and partners.”