Australia first World Cup team to release players’ statement criticising Qatar

Some 16 players draw issue with the country’s treatment of migrants workers and the LGBTQ+ community.

Australia has become the first World Cup finals side to release a collective statement from players criticising host Qatar’s human rights record.

Some 16 players, including ex-Arsenal and Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan, appear in the video in which they draw issue with the country’s treatment of migrants workers and the LGBTQ+ community.

“There are universal values that should define football. Values such as respect, dignity, trust and courage,” skipper Ryan said in his section of the statement.

“When we represent our nation, we aspire to embody these values.”

Accusations over the treatment of migrant workers and a poor record of human rights have plagued the Gulf state, where same-sex relationships are criminalised, since it was controversially awarded this winter’s finals back in 2010.

Australia first World Cup team to release players’ statement criticising Qatar
Australia first World Cup team to release players’ statement criticising Qatar

The Australia video features players Jackson Irvine, Bailey Wright, Jamie Maclaren, Nick D’Agostino, Craig Goodwin, Danny Vukovic, Andrew Redmayne, Mathew Leckie, Mitchell Duke, Mitch Langerak, Denis Genreau, Cameron Devlin, Adam Taggart, Kye Rowles and Alex Wilkinson, the president of union Professional Footballers Australia (PFA).

They acknowledged conditions have improved for workers in Qatar, in particular through the partial dismantling of the kafala system, which allowed employers to take workers’ passports and block them from leaving the country.

But the players noted the implementation of reforms “remains inconsistent and requires improvement”.

“These migrant workers who have suffered are not just numbers, like the migrants that have shaped our country and our football,” the players said.

“They possess the same courage and determination to build a better life.

“Addressing these issues is not easy. And we do not have all the answers.

“We stand with Fifpro, the Building and Wood Workers International and the International Trade Union Confederation, seeking to embed reforms and establish a lasting legacy in Qatar.

“This must include establishing a migrant resource centre, effective remedy for those who have been denied their rights, and the decriminalisation of all same-sex relationships.

“These are the basic rights that should be afforded to all and will ensure continued progress in Qatar.

“This is how we can ensure a legacy that goes well beyond the final whistle of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”

It comes after former England striker Gary Lineker led criticism of Foreign Secretary James Cleverly for suggesting that LGBT football fans heading to the World Cup in Qatar should be “respectful of the host nation”.

Cleverly urged fans to show “a little bit of flex and compromise” and to “respect the culture of your host nation”, before Downing Street distanced itself from his comments.

Responding to the politician’s comments on Twitter, the Match Of The Day presenter wrote: “Whatever you do, don’t do anything Gay. Is that the message?”

Australia in June secured their fifth straight appearance at the World Cup finals by beating Peru on penalties in their qualifying play-off in Qatar.

They will join defending champions France, Denmark and Tunisia in Group D at the tournament.

Ryan and FC St Pauli midfielder Irvine, who has also played for Celtic and Hull, have previously flagged their own concerns about human rights in Qatar but the video is the first by a side competing at the event.

Australia first World Cup team to release players’ statement criticising Qatar
Australia first World Cup team to release players’ statement criticising Qatar

It was released along with a statement from governing body Football Australia and an open letter from PFA.

“As the most multicultural, diverse, and inclusive sport in our country, we believe everyone should be able to feel safe and be their true authentic selves,” Football Australia said.

“Whilst we acknowledge the highest levels of assurances given by HH Amir of Qatar and the President of FIFA that LGBTI+ fans will be safely welcomed in Qatar, we hope that this openness can continue beyond the tournament.”

Australian Josh Cavallo of Adelaide United is one of the highest-profile players to have come out as gay, with Lineker earlier this month saying he wants to see a Premier League player come out during the Qatar World Cup to send a strong message to the hosts.

Denmark’s football association in November said it would introduce measures to highlight the human rights situation in Qatar, including limiting travel to the host nation to avoid promoting it.

Denmark’s kit manufacturer in September released three shirts including a black strip to honour migrant workers who died during construction for the tournament.

Hummel said: “While we support the Danish national team all the way, this shouldn’t be confused with support for a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives.”

The hosts have disputed the number of lives lost, with its Qatar 2022 supreme committee responding, “we whole-heartedly reject the trivialising (of) our genuine commitment to protect the health and safety” of migrants workers.

The FA announced in September that England’s Harry Kane will join counterparts from eight other European nations, including Wales, in wearing a OneLove rainbow anti-discrimination captain’s armband during the tournament.

Kane has said he will wear the armband even if it is prohibited by FIFA, with the Football Association of Wales saying it would accept any fines issued to Gareth Bale for doing the same.

Meanwhile, calls for FIFA to contribute to a compensation scheme for migrant workers in Qatar have received strong public backing.

Human rights campaign groups, including Amnesty International, have called on football’s global governing body to set aside 440million US dollars (£380m) to support the scheme – equivalent to the amount it is set to hand out in World Cup prize money.