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Norwegian football president makes powerful speech criticising Qatar World Cup

Speaking at the Fifa Congress in Doha, Lise Klaveness said the 2022 finals were awarded ‘in unacceptable ways, with unacceptable consequences’.

Norway FA president Lise Klaveness during the 72nd Fifa Congress.
Norway FA president Lise Klaveness during the 72nd Fifa Congress.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

FIFA’S DECISION TO hold the World Cup in Qatar took centre stage at the global body’s annual congress today, with president Gianni Infantino forced to defend progress made by the Gulf state on human rights.

Infantino and Qatar’s top organiser hit back after Norway’s football federation head, Lise Klaveness, a rare female leader on the international stage, said that giving the World Cup to Qatar had been “unacceptable”.

Speaking in the Qatari capital 235 days from the start of the tournament, Klaveness highlighted human rights in the host country and demanded that Fifa act as a “role model”.

“In 2010, World Cups were awarded by Fifa in unacceptable ways, with unacceptable consequences,” Klaveness said in a speech at the end of the carefully choreographed congress when individual federations were allowed to speak out.

“Human rights, equality, democracy, the core interests of football were not in the starting 11 until many years later. 

“These basic rights were pressured onto the field as substitutes, mainly by outside voices. Fifa has addressed these issues, but there is still a long way to go.

The migrant workers injured or the families of those who died in the build-up to the World Cup must be cared for.

“Fifa, all of us must take all necessary measures to really implement change. Fifa has recognised its responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights and now includes human rights criteria for future World Cup hosts. 

“It is vital that the current leadership continue wholeheartedly in this way, truly moving from policy to impact.

“There is no room for employers who do not ensure the freedom and safety of World Cup workers,” she added. “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.”

All World Cup hosts had to guarantee the rights of the LGTB community. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar.

Klaveness also accused Fifa leaders of making a “hesitant” response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Her comments echoed statements made by several European nations and teams ahead of the tournament that runs from 21 November to 18 December.

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a-general-view-of-gianni-infantino-the-president-of-fifa-speaking-on-stage-during-the-72nd-fifa-congress-at-the-doha-exhibition-and-convention-center-doha-picture-date-thursday-march-31-2022 A view of Gianni Infantino speaking at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

Qatar’s organising committee chief Hassan al-Thawadi immediately took the stage to say he was disappointed that Klaveness had made her comments without speaking to Qatari authorities.

He said the event, the first World Cup in the Middle East, would leave “truly transformational social, human, economic and environmental legacies”.

Qatar feels that much of the criticism it has faced has been unfair. Following well-documented exploitation of workers, Qatar finally brought in reforms in 2019 – to a labour system in which employers could stop migrant works leaving the country or changing jobs – and imposed a minimum wage.

However, reports are that abuses of the system remain rife. Infantino said Fifa was aware of the problems and had confronted Qatar’s rulers.

“The only way to provoke positive change is through dialogue and engagement,” he said.

He told the congress that important progress has been made in Qatar and that the energy rich state would put on “the best World Cup ever.”

– © AFP 2022

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