The dispute over the legacy of the staging of the Men’s World Cup in Qatar broke out on Thursday in the Fifa Congress hall, with the president of the Norwegian Football Association calling for stronger action, only for the head of the Supreme Committee of Qatar who she insisted that she “educate herself about the problems.
In a well-run free-kick event in Doha ahead of Friday’s World Cup draw, Lise Klaveness’s speech shattered consensus when she said Fifa must act as a “role model” and called on the organization to do more to support the families of migrant workers who had been killed and the wounded working on the World Cup project.
“Our game can inspire dreams and break down barriers, but as a leader we have to do it right and to the highest standards,” said Klaveness, a former Norwegian international. “We cannot ignore the requests for change and the way FIFA manages the game has so much to say about how the game is perceived. Fifa must serve as a model.
“In 2010 the World Cup was awarded by FIFA in unacceptable ways with unacceptable consequences. Human rights, equality and democracy – the central interests of football – were not in the titular XI. These fundamental rights have come under pressure on the ground as replacements, mainly by outside voices. Fifa has addressed these problems but there is still a long way to go. “
Klaveness continued to call for specific reforms. “Injured migrant workers or the families of those who died ahead of the World Cup must be cared for.”
The speech by the president of the Norwegian federation was followed by an unexpected speech by the general secretary of the Honduran federation, José Ernesto Mejía, who said it was “not the forum or the right time” to make such remarks.
Supreme Surrender and Inheritance Committee (SC) Secretary General Hassan al-Thawadi then gave a passionate speech defending the steps Qatar has taken since winning the right to host the World Cup. He said the country has embarked on “12 years of ongoing work… dedicated to ensuring this tournament leaves truly transformative social, human, economic and environmental legacies to remember. We are deeply aware of the spotlight that comes with hosting the greatest show on earth and we have embraced it. “
Thawadi said the most important legacy of the World Cup would be to correct the prejudices that saw the Arab world as a place of conflict. He said he also wanted to reassure interested parties about a social legacy, citing the positive reports made by international trade unions on the development of workers’ rights. “Our opponents have become allies,” he said she “[and] even our harshest critics like Amnesty recognize our commitment ”.
He also criticized Klaveness for not speaking individually to CS about Norwegian concerns. “UP [the issue of a] social heritage, I would like to secure the Norwegian Federation, “he said.”[But] I would like to express a disappointment. Madame President has visited our country and has not asked for a meeting. You did not attempt a dialogue before addressing Congress today. We have always been open to dialogue, we have always welcomed constructive criticism. We have always had the doors open for anyone who wants to understand the problems, who wants to educate themselves before expressing any judgment “.
The Guardian understands that Klaveness personally addressed Thawadi about social heritage in Qatar.
Controversy even for a moment later in Congress, when FIFA president Gianni Infantino presented a video documenting the progress made in Qatar in the field of labor and human rights since winning the World Cup.
The video said that the CS was instrumental in ending the kafala system in the country and showed the Secretary General of Construction and the International Woodworkers’, Ambet Yuson, praising the improvements in worker safety. “The health and safety standards in the stadium construction sites are on a par with the health and safety standards in Europe,” said Yuson.
The video also showed Piara Powar, CEO of the Fare network fighting for equality in football, talking about the safety dialogue of LGBTQ + fans in Qatar, where homosexuality remains illegal. Although Powar is cited as positive about the trial, the Guardian understands that he has also expressed concern about the continued lack of guarantees about the safety of fans, remarks not in the video.
On Thursday, 16 organizations focused on LGBTIQ + rights asked the SC to take action on the safety of supporters, saying that the action has been slow and that “the reassurances on the safety of LGBTIQ + people and the mechanisms in place to ensure safety have not been adequate” . The organizations said they had submitted eight requests for intervention to FIFA and SC, but had not yet received a response from the latter.
Infantino announced he would run for a second four-year term as president.