Qatari organisers of the 2022 World Cup have responded to the Socceroos’ criticism of the country’s human rights record, praising the group of players for raising awareness of issues ahead of the tournament while admitting that “no country is perfect”.
Sixteen Australian players raised their concerns about the “suffering” of migrant workers and the inability of LGBTQ+ people in Qatar “to love the person that they choose” in a collective video released on Thursday.
They acknowledged that some progress has taken place in Qatar before next month’s kick-off, but that implementation of reform in the country “remains inconsistent and requires improvement”.
The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy – the tournament’s organisers – responded to the players’ statement and the issue of workers’ rights.
“We commend footballers using their platforms to raise awareness for important matters,” the committee said.
“We have committed every effort to ensuring that this World Cup has had a transformative impact on improving lives, especially for those involved in constructing the competition and non-competition venues we’re responsible for.
“Protecting the health, safety, security, and dignity of every worker contributing to this World Cup is our priority.”
Qatar’s human rights record has been under increased scrutiny as the kick-off for the showpiece event approaches, with several acts of protests planned once the football gets under way on 20 November.
The Socceroos’ Group D opponents, Denmark, have produced an all-black playing shirt to honour the workers who died during the construction of stadiums and infrastructure, while players from nine teams will wear “One Love” armbands.
The organisers did not directly address the issue of same-sex relationships raised by the Socceroos players in the video – which remains illegal in Qatar – but said: “This World Cup has contributed to a legacy of progress, better practice, and improving lives – and it’s a legacy that will live long after the final ball is kicked.”
They said any change in workplace culture might not be seen immediately, and implementation of new laws was a challenge not unique to Qatar.
“New laws and reforms often take time to bed in, and robust implementation of labour laws is a global challenge, including in Australia,” added the spokesperson.
“No country is perfect, and every country – hosts of major events or not – has its challenges.”
The Socceroos begin their Group D campaign against France on 23 November, before playing Tunisia three days later and Denmark on 1 December.