World Cup hosts Qatar have praised Australia’s men’s national team for their efforts to raise awareness of “important issues” and “there is no such thing as a perfect country”, a spokesman for Qatar’s Supreme Commission for Delivery and Legacy said on Friday.
In a video message produced by Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) and released on Wednesday, 16 Socceroos called on Qatar to recognize same-sex relationships and improve the rights of migrant workers. The PFA also released an open letter to Qatar, expressing the need for reform.
“We commend the footballers for using their platforms to raise awareness of important issues,” said a spokesman for Qatar’s Supreme Commission, responding to the footballers’ call for reform in the country ahead of next month’s World Cup in Doha.
“It’s not a perfect country, and every country (hosting major events or not) has its own challenges,” the spokesman said.
“New laws and reforms often take time to bed, and strong enforcement of labor laws is a global challenge, including in Australia.”
16 The Socceroos said in a video message that they “wanted to embed reforms and establish a lasting legacy in Qatar”.
“This must include the establishment of a resource center for migrants, an effective remedy for those denied rights and the decriminalization of all same-sex relationships,” they added.
“These are fundamental rights that should be given to all and will ensure Qatar’s continued progress – a legacy that goes beyond the final round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”
The Guardian reported last year that 6,500 migrant workers had died in the country in the 10 years since Qatar hosted the tournament in 2010, most of them working in dangerous, low-paid jobs, often in extreme heat.
The report – which tournament organizers “categorically” denied – did not link all 6,500 deaths to World Cup infrastructure projects and has not been independently verified by CNN.
Qatar has also been criticized for the country’s anti-LGBTQ laws.
The World Cup will start on November 20 and will go to the final on December 18. Australia’s first game is on November 22 against France.