Football federations in the Nordic countries are putting pressure on Doha and FIFA to improve conditions for migrant workers in the emirate, despite their strong opposition to Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup.
The federations of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland, in collaboration with the rights organization Amnesty International, have increased the pressure in recent months, raising their concerns and presenting recommendations in letters, meetings with officials, and pre-game protests.
“We are opposed to the World Cup being held in Qatar; we thought it was a bad decision,” Jakob Jensen, the head of the Danish federation DBU, told AFP.
“It’s wrong in a lot of ways.” As a result of the human rights situation
, the environment, and the construction of new stadiums in a country with limited stadium capacity,” he said. Denmark is currently the only Nordic country to have qualified for the tournament. Sweden will have to compete in a playoff next year for a place, while Norway, Finland, and Iceland have all been eliminated.
Leading the charge, the Danish federation publishes the Nordic countries’ letters to FIFA on a regular basis and meets with Qatari officials, including a meeting in October with Qatar head organizer Hassan Al-Thawadi.
The primary concern is the rights of migrant workers.
Qatar has been chastised for its treatment of migrant workers, many of whom are working on the World Cup stadiums and infrastructure.
Employers are accused of exploitation and forcing workers to work in hazardous conditions, according to campaigners.
Meanwhile, Qatari authorities claim they have done more than any other country in the region to improve worker welfare and deny international media reports of thousands of worker deaths.
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‘Hold organisers responsible’
Other concerns have been raised with al-Thawadi by the Nordics, according to Jensen.
“Will homosexuals be permitted to participate in the World Cup?” Will both men and women be able to attend the matches? Will the press have unrestricted access to all issues in order to conduct investigations in the country?”
“And all of the answers we got were ‘yes.'” “Of course, we’re going to hold him accountable for that,” Jensen explained.
The Danish federation stated that its World Cup participation would be limited to the games played on the field and that it would not do anything to promote the event for the organizers.
It will reduce the number of trips it makes to Qatar, the team’s commercial partners will not participate in official activities there, and its two jersey sponsors will allow critical messages to be printed on the training kits.
Norway’s qualification bid collapsed after its best player, Erling Braut Haaland, missed games due to injury, and the issue reached a head in June when the country’s federation voted on whether to boycott the World Cup.
Delegates ultimately voted against the idea, but an expert committee recommended 26 measures, including the establishment of a resource center for migrant workers and an alert system to detect and notify the international community of human rights violations. Norway’s team, like other teams, protested before each match by wearing jerseys or holding banners, such as the one seen during a recent match against Turkey, which read “Fair play for migrant workers.”
However, the Nordic countries have not always followed through on their own campaign.
Last month, a Danish fan was ordered to remove a banner criticizing the World Cup in Qatar because FIFA rules prohibit political statements.
And, as in the previous two years, Sweden’s federation has scrapped plans to hold its winter training camp in the emirate.
Sweden’s professional clubs had protested the federation’s hypocrisy in holding the camp there while also leading the protests with Nordic counterparts.
The professional clubs wanted to send a “signal,” according to Jens Andersson, chairman of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues.
Individual players have also weighed in.
Finland’s captain, Tim Sparv, issued a joint appeal with Amnesty International last week demanding that “FIFA ensure that human rights are respected,” adding, “We owe it to those people who have worked for years in poor conditions.”
So far, no other FIFA member federation has joined the Nordic campaign.
“Hopefully, all of our Nordic neighbors and our actions will have an impact on other countries,” Mats Enquist, secretary-general of the Swedish Professional Football League, told AFP.
“We need to make sure that when we come to a place, we take care of all aspects of football, not just the richest.”
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