Qatar World Cup chief warns England boss over human rights remarks (VIDEO)
Qatar World Cup 2022 Chief Executive Nasser Al Khater has told England manager Gareth Southgate to speak to football stadium workers in the host country after the high-profile coach questioned the welfare of employees and said traveling to the tournament would "potentially threaten" female and LGBTQ+ fans.
Southgate and his players are in contact with Non-Governmental Organizations about high-profile allegations made against Qatar, where reports have claimed that thousands of migrant workers have died during the building of stadiums for the finals.
Human rights charity Amnesty International has said that women in Qatar face "discrimination in law and practice" and a system that ties them to a male guardian.
"My question would be, who from the England squad has been to Qatar? My question to the coach is, has he been to Qatar?" Al Khater told Sky Sports at the end of an international break in which Southgate has suggested there are human rights issues in the country.
Gareth Southgate has questioned what England would achieve by boycotting this year's World Cup due to human rights issues in Qatar. pic.twitter.com/eWfXRzWMfl— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) March 25, 2022
"Is he basing his opinions and his public statements on what he has read? Because it is kind of an issue when you just base an opinion on which you are very vocal about on things which you have read.
"Somebody with a lot of influence such as Southgate, somebody with a big audience that listens to what he has said, has got to pick his words carefully.
"I think before making statements like that when it comes to the workers, he needs to come here, speak to workers, understand what workers get out of being here.
"There are isolated cases, these are the cases which make it to the media. However, I can assure him that if he comes here, speaks to the majority of workers, they will tell you how they have put their children through university, they will tell you how they built their houses for them and their families. These are the stories that nobody hears.
"I am extending him my deepest respect. I respect him as a coach, as a human being. I don't have any issues with people's opinions. Obviously when someone has a different opinion, you will give them your side of the story. We can agree to disagree, but that's fine."
🗣 “Somebody with a lot of influence such as Southgate, he’s got to pick his words carefully.”Qatar 2022 Chief Executive Nasser Al Khater has responded to Gareth Southgate following the England manager voicing concerns about the country's suitability to host the World Cup. 🏆 pic.twitter.com/UCgAG2CtYi— Football Daily (@footballdaily) March 31, 2022
The draw for the finals, which take place in November and December, will be held in Doha on Friday as part of organizers FIFA's 72nd Congress.
“I think I’m quite clear on the areas of concern about this tournament,” said Southgate, who oversaw a win for the Three Lions at Wembley Stadium against Switzerland on Saturday before his side cruised past the Ivory Coast at home on Tuesday.
“The building of the stadiums was the first, and there’s nothing we can do about that now. They’re built.
"There are obviously ongoing concerns about the rights of workers and the conditions they live in and those areas. It seems universally accepted that [the situation is] better than it was, but not in the position where people think it could be.
"And maybe policies that have been put in place are not always enforced as they might be.
“Then there are the issues that potentially threaten our fans when they travel: the rights of women and the rights of the LGBTQ+ community in particular.
Southgate and FA btw always said they would only discuss negatives of Qatar after qualifying completed. But here they were posing for pics in December 2019, along with fallen FA relic Greg Clarke, who led the memoranda of understanding a year earlier pic.twitter.com/tzQ4gBzs7q— Adam Crafton (@AdamCrafton_) March 30, 2022
"Sadly, through discussions that I’ve had, I don’t think some of those communities are going to go and that’s a great shame."
Southgate and his players have become known for speaking out on controversial issues in recent years.
The squad earned a mixed reaction when they committed to taking the knee before matches last year, and Southgate has also admitted that he endured a backlash from critics for appearing in a government health campaign urging young people to take a Covid vaccine.
“We stand for inclusivity as a team – that’s been the big driver of a lot of the stances we’ve taken in the last couple of years – and it would be horrible to think some of our fans feel they can’t go because they feel threatened or they’re worried about their safety," the former international said of the finals.
"So there needs to be some clarity and some better communication that they are going to be safe, because they’re not feeling that.”
"What we’re going to try to do with the players is highlight that we think those are going to be the key areas [of concern]. There might be one or two others, too.”
Teams including Norway and Germany have worn t-shirts before matches campaigning over perceived human rights abuses in Qatar.
“I’m not sure that just wearing a t-shirt makes a difference,” admitted Southgate. “I don’t totally know what we can do in every aspect.
"I think we have to be realistic about what that might be. There are some things we’re not going to be able to affect.
"Maybe there are some things we can affect; if we can and we think they’re worthwhile, we’ll try to do that.
"Without a doubt, one of the priorities in my mind is our own fans and how they’re going to be dealt with in particular.
“There are lots of conversations with organisations like Amnesty, so it’s not correct when they say discussions aren’t taking place. We’re trying to do the best we can.
"We’re going to get criticism here whatever happens. It won’t be deemed enough but we have always tried to affect things in the right way.”
Al Khater said he was looking forward to welcoming Southgate to the draw and giving the manager his opinion in order to help him "understand different opinions and different cultures."
"No country is perfect – let's get that right and I do not think anybody can claim that," he added.
"So if somebody is coming and claiming they are a perfect country, they need to really take a look at themselves.
"First of all, people need to understand Qatar is the safest country in the Middle East.
"It is the second safest country in the world. People need to understand what that safety means and why it is the safest country in the Middle East and why it is one of the safest countries in the world.
"There is a lot of meaning in that and I can assure fans that the reason they won't feel safe here is because of the lack of understanding and the lack of understanding of tolerance.
"So again, people are basing their opinions and fears on things they do not understand and that is usually what causes apprehension with human beings: a lack of understanding.
"People are going to feel safe here, people are going to be very comfortable. What I can say to fans is, we are a modest country, we have our culture, we have our norms.
"What we ask of them is to respect it. What that means is, whether you are a gay couple, whether you are a heterosexual couple, we have the same norms, we look at it the same way.
"So all we ask is for people to be respectful, like we are respectful when we travel around the world, and basically just to observe these cultural differences.
"Basically what it means is public displays of affection are frowned upon. That is simply it."