David Beckham has been told he’s made a ‘big mistake’ in taking an ambassadorial role for the Qatar World Cup, by former team-mate Eric Cantona.
The ex-England international has come under fire in recent months for his decision to be a ‘face’ of the tournament and has been accused of duplicity in the country’s sportswashing campaign.
And now Cantona, who Beckham knows well from their time at Manchester United, has urged the England icon to re-think his stance and suggests Beckham isn’t aware of ‘what has happened there’.
When asked if he would ever adopt a similar role to Beckham, Cantona told the Athletic: ‘I would not do it at all. I do completely the opposite. In January 2022, I started to say that. Maybe I was the first one.
‘But I am free to do it. And of course, an ex-player paid to do this kind of thing… It could be they don’t know what has happened there. Or, if they know it, I think they did wrong. I think they made a big mistake. A big, big mistake.’
In February, it was announced that Beckham agreed a £10million deal to become an ambassador for the country over the decade, which has resulted in him being the face of the 2022 World Cup.
David Beckham has been urged to reverse his decision to become the face of Qatar 2022
Eric Cantona claims his former Man United team-mate ‘doesn’t know what has happened there’
Cantona continued: ‘If you have a player who says, “I will boycott the World Cup”, you say, “Bravo”. But you cannot condemn a 20-year-old player, who has a 10-year career, who lives in a world surrounded by people from football 24 hours per day.
‘But do speak about the federations, speak about the politicians, who have the power to say, “No, we do not go to the World Cup”.
‘We cannot be disappointed if players don’t want to boycott the World Cup, because at the top, the politicians, the presidents, the federations, the ministers… they have the power to boycott it.’
Beckham agreed a £10million deal to become ambassador for the country over the decade
In June, human-rights organisation Amnesty International renewed it’s criticism of David Beckham after he heaped praise on Qatar but ignored its appalling human rights record.
During an interview for Neville’s Sky Bet-sponsored YouTube show The Overlap, Beckham said: ‘Speaking as a fan, I’ve been coming to Qatar now for a number of years. I’ve seen the hospitality, the warmth of the people.
‘We talk about football being for everybody, we talk about the World Cup being for everybody and this is the first time the World Cup is being hosted in this region and that is an incredible moment.
In a statement, Amnesty responded: ‘It’s glossy and full of footballing anecdotes, but it’s a shame the film makes no mention at all of Qatar’s long history of labour abuses, its shocking criminalisation of homosexuality or in fact any other human rights issue.
‘When David Beckham secured his lucrative deal to be an ambassador for football in Qatar, we said he ought to use his unique profile to keep the world’s focus on human rights issues surrounding the Qatar World Cup. This feels like a missed opportunity.’
Two weeks ago, Beckham was praised for waiting to see Queen Elizabeth II lying in state
In recent months, Beckham has praised ‘the hospitality, the warmth of the people’ in Qatar
Despite backlash, just two months later, Beckham appeared in a glossy new video to promote the despotic Middle Eastern country, calling it ‘perfection’.
In a video set against the backdrop of the capital city Doha, the former England captain calls Qatar an ‘incredible place to spend a few days’ as he unveils his £10million deal to be the face of the Islamic nation.
In a voiceover to the video, Beckham says: ‘Qatar really is an incredible place to spend a few days on a stopover. The modern and traditional fuse create something really special. It’s one of the best spice markets that I have ever been to. This will go down as one of my favourite mornings. This is perfection, I cannot wait to bring my children back.’
Until now, Beckham has not acknowledged the controversial £10million contract to be the face of the World Cup and the Gulf state, where gay people are persecuted and misogyny is rife. It is still illegal for people to be gay there and women face discrimination from a male guardianship system that forces them to seek approval to marry, study or travel.
The former England captain appeared in a promotional video for Qatar in August
With serious issues also being raised over the country’s treatment of migrant workers, Beckham has been accused of putting money ahead of principles in the lead-up to the tournament.
An investigation from the Mail on Sunday found that the deaths of 2,823 foreigners of working age in Qatar have gone unexplained — or ‘unclassified’ to use the official term — since 2011, while the Guardian reported last year that at least 6,750 migrant workers who died in Qatar since the games were awarded in 2010.
According to Human Rights Watch’s Minky Worden: ‘Official Qatari statistics show that 15,021 non-Qataris died in the country between 2010 and 2019. Not one migrant worker should die to make a World Cup possible. Yet in Qatar, thousands have.’
Despite this, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy claims the number of work-related fatalities on World Cup projects is just three.
The families of the workers who died in the construction of Qatar’s stadiums have since called for the Qatari government to provide ‘millions in compensation’.
The Mail on Sunday revealed over 2,800 working age foreigners have died in Qatar since 2011
The Mail on Sunday revealed Beckham’s deal with Qatar last February, which sparked fury from critics. Amnesty said at the time: ‘We would urge him to learn about the deeply concerning human rights situation in Qatar and be prepared to speak out about it.’
Veteran human-rights activist Peter Tatchell said: ‘It is really disappointing that he is promoting Qatar in return for a lot of money, given its dismal human-rights record.
‘He has made a huge mistake. I hope he will think again. This doesn’t square with his professed support for women’s and LGBT+ rights.’
Helen Barnard, research and policy director at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, added: ‘Such weak justifications from Beckham and all the clubs and stars taking money from these brutal, horrific regimes.’
The World Cup will be held in Qatar amid a backdrop of poor human rights record in the nation
Beckham’s relationship with Qatar is not a new one, stemming back to his time as a player at Paris Saint-Germain.
It is understood the ambassadorial deal came about as a result of Beckham’s close friendship with the Qatari president of PSG, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, when the former Manchester United star played for the club in 2013.
The pair were photographed laughing together at an international match in Qatar in 2019 and Beckham has become a frequent visitor to the country.
‘I wish I was still playing because to play in stadiums like this, it’s a dream. Players are going to be spoilt.’
Beckham became close with Qatari president of PSG, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, in his time in France