World Cup host Qatar has praised the Australian men’s national team for their efforts to raise awareness on “important matters” and said that “no country is perfect,” a spokesperson for Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy said on Friday.
In a video message produced by Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) and released 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 need for reform.
”We commend footballers using their platforms to raise awareness for important matters,” Qatar’s Supreme Committee spokesperson said, responding to the footballers’ call for reform in the country ahead of the upcoming World Cup in Doha next month.
“No country is perfect, and every country – hosts of major events or not – has its challenges,” the spokesperson said.
“New laws and reforms often take time to bed in, and robust implementation of labor laws is a global challenge, including in Australia.”
The 16 Socceroos said in the video message that they were “seeking to embed reforms and establish a lasting legacy in Qatar.”
“This must include establishing a migrant resource center, effective remedy for those who have been denied their rights, and the decriminalization of all same-sex relationships,” they added.
“These are the basic rights that should be afforded to all and will ensure continued progress in Qatar – a legacy that goes well beyond the final whistle 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 following Qatar’s successful bid to host the tournament in 2010, most of whom were involved in low-wage, dangerous labor, often undertaken in extreme heat.
The report – “categorically” denied by tournament organizers – did not connect all 6,500 deaths with World Cup infrastructure projects and has not been independently verified by CNN.
Qatar has also been the subject of criticism for the country’s anti-LGBTQ laws.
The World Cup kicks off on November 20 and runs through to the final on December 18. Australia’s first match is on November 22 against France.