A Norwegian soccer official has sharply criticized World Cup hosts Qatar and FIFA ahead of the tournament’s draw.
Qatar’s record on defending the rights of migrant workers – who have created the multi-billion dollar project needed for the World Cup – and its homosexuality was broadcast by Norway’s newly elected head of soccer and one of the few, Lis Clavenes. Women will ever lead a FIFA member federation.
It was a rare display of dissent and excitement at the typically tightly written annual meetings of the 211 member states of football, and targeted issues that have held the Middle East country Qatar and FIFA’s controversial choice for more than a decade.
“In 2010, the World Cup was awarded by FIFA with unacceptable results,” said Clevens, who is gay, in a six-minute speech. “There is no place for employers who do not ensure the freedom and security of the World Cup staff. There is no place for hosts who cannot legally guarantee the safety and dignity of LGBTQ + people who come to this theater of dreams. “
FIFA worked in Doha this week to keep the Norwegian speech off the main agenda of Congress and then to refute it from Latin American football officials and the head of Qatar’s organizing committee.
“This is not the right forum and not the right moment,” said Jose Ernesto Mejia, general secretary of the Honduras Soccer Federation.
Clevens was reprimanded by Hassan al-Thawadi, who put forward Qatar’s bid more than 12 years ago and has led the organizing committee ever since.
“You did not try to contact us and engage in dialogue before addressing today’s Congress,” he said.
Al-Thawadi said Qatar’s doors were always open for people to “educate themselves before judging”.
Qatar and FIFA have consistently said that taking the World Cup to the country has accelerated positive changes in the country’s laws and society.
The war in Ukraine then took center stage as a three-minute video message was broadcast from the head of the country’s football federation, Andrei Pavelko.
Speaking from Kiev, Pavelko wore an armored suit as people packed sandbags a few meters high to protect a monument behind him.
He said children in Ukraine had suffered “terrible trauma” during the war and that football would help them in the future.
The Russian delegation, including Alexei Sorokin, a former member of the FIFA Council, is watching as the country hosts the 2018 World Cup.
Although FIFA has banned Russian teams, including the men’s national team, from qualifying for the World Cup, the Football Federation has not suspended them.
“We are not hiding,” Sorokin said before the meeting. “We have every right to be here.”
The draw for the World Cup will be held at the same conference center on Friday.
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