The Socceroos and Football Australia have spoken out on Qatar’s human rights record ahead of the football World Cup due to start next month.
The Gulf state has been criticised by a litany of NGOs, charities, and other organisations on a range of issues ranging from the rights of migrant workers who built the stadiums, its laws surrounding homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and its draconian treatment of internal and external dissenters.
The Socceroos have called for an “effective rememdy” for migrant workers and the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships. A video, delivered line-by-line by 16 players and supported by the broader Australian playing group.
— Professional Footballers Australia (@thepfa) October 26, 2022
“As PFA members, we understand the power of collective bargaining and the fundamental rights of all workers to form and join a union,” read one player.
“As players, we fully support the rights of LGBTI+ people, but in Qatar people are not free to love the person that they choose,” read another.
“We acknowledge the significant progress and legislative reforms have occurred in Qatar over recent years to recognise and protect the rights of workers, and we encourage all stakeholders to continue this path to reform,” said Football Australia in a statement.
“However, we have also learned that the tournament has been associated with suffering for some migrant workers and their families.”
The body called for the establishment of a Migrant Workers Centre in Qatar that will continue to represent the rights of migrant workers beyond December 2022. The body also said that whilst it acknowledges the “highest levels of assurances” given given by the Amir of Qatar and FIFA President Gianni Infantino that LGBTI+ fans will be safely welcomed in Qatar, it hopes that “this openness can continue beyond the tournament.”
Football Australia and the Socceroos are not the first body or group of players to speak out against the World Cup in Qatar. However, they are the first team from the same confederation as Qatar and will return to play there in the next Asian Cup in mid-2023. FA is also preparing a bid to host the World Cup in 2034 and many had assumed the body would stay silent to boost its chances of winning.
Sources that spoke to The Sydney Morning Herald said that FA and the players have engaged in a “months-long consultation” with players, football bodies, and other stakeholders and are taking the opportunity to “raise awareness of some important issues and help affect change globally and domestically.”
Other teams from Europe have decided to protest the World Cup being held in Qatar. Denmark, for example, who the Socceroos are set to face in Group D, will wear single-colour “protest jerseys” and have minimised pre-tournament commercial activity or travel that promotes Qatar.
Players from nine European countries, including England, have also committed to wearing “One Love” armbands, which are intended to protest Qatar’s laws around same-sex relationships, even if they are not approved by FIFA. During qualification, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway (Norway did not qualify for the World Cup finals) wore pre-match T-shirts promoting human rights.
Australian sports teams are becoming more forthright in their collective objections towards social injustice.
Last week, the Diamonds netball team became embroiled in a stand-off with shirt sponsor Hacock Prospecting after First Nations player Donnell Wallam led objections over the company’s questionable record on indigenous issues. Company CEO, Gina Reinhart pulled funding for the team. Reinhart’s father, Lang Hancock had commented in 1984 that sterilisation of indigenous people was the solution to what he called “the Aboriginal problem.”
Last night, Wallam scored a last-gasp winner to help Australia beat England 55-54.
Earlier this month, Australia Cricket captain Pat Cummins also led a wave of discontent about the team’s sponsorship by Alinta Energy over its stance on renewable energy.