Football writer Jonathan Wilson is astonished by Qatar’s apparent failure to anticipate the criticism being levelled at them in the run-up to their hosting of the World Cup.
The Middle Eastern state is the setting for this year’s tournament, beginning in November.
However, since being awarded hosting rights in 2010, Qatar has come under intense international scrutiny, especially in regards to its appalling human rights record.
At the FIFA Congress on Thursday, the President of the Norwegian Football Federation Lise Klaveness called on the governing body to take stronger action over the deaths of migrant workers hired to build stadiums for the tournament.
The head of Qatar’s Supreme Committee took exception to Klaveness’ remarks, suggesting that she “educate” herself over the issues.
Wilson argues that, by drawing so much international attention, Qatar should have expected a significant amount of criticism over human rights abuses.
Wilson joined Nathan on Thursday’s Football Show. He finds it bizarre that football figures receive such backlash for even minor comments about Qatari society.
“We’ve seen Gareth Southgate being attacked for some pretty basic, uncontroversial comments about concerns,” Wilson said.
“I think it’s 16 different leading LGBT groups that have written for assurances and none of them have received a reply.”
“A lot of these issues were entirely predictable, and the fact that Qatar haven’t prepared an adequate PR response suggests to me that they haven’t a clue what’s coming.”
“There are going to be a lot of protests in November.”
“We’ve seen, in a minor way, various issues in Baku and Budapest with LGBT groups; I think they will be ramped up massively in Qatar.”
“The lack of women’s football is another issue - there will be protests, and there should be protests.”
"If there are arrests, the world’s journalists are there to expose it"
Wilson added: “If you are going to do it, this is the time to do it because this is when all the eyes of the world are there.”
“If there are arrests and an over-the-top crackdown, then the world’s journalists are there to report it and expose it.”
“It could be hugely embarrassing for the Qatari State.”
“I’m surprised that they haven’t anticipated it and prepared better responses.”
Wilson also expects that footballers themselves will carry out their own forms of demonstration both on and off the pitch.
“Generally, in the last five years, we’ve seen sportspeople and athletes who are prepared to speak out on these issues,” Wilson explained.
“I expect there will be similar initiatives to what we saw at the Euros with captains wearing rainbow armbands.”
“That seems like a very minor thing which can be done and should be done.”
“I suspect it wouldn’t be quite as widespread a thing because in Europe, we have a fairly good idea of what we think about that, and other parts of the world don’t necessarily agree.”
“It is a FIFA statute that there should be equality in that regard.”
Wilson continued: “We’ll definitely see fans with banners, and it will be interesting to see how they’re treated.”
“Looking at it from a Qatari PR point of view, there’s a big danger for them of a Streisand effect, where the more you try and crack down on women’s football or gay rights, the more of a problem it becomes for them.”
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