The upcoming soccer World Cup is an opportunity for the Gulf region to defend itself against “prejudices”, said the FIFA President on Thursday and defended hosts Qatar from criticism of their rights balance. Gianni Infantino spoke via video link at an investor conference in neighboring Saudi Arabia, which is reportedly in talks with Greece and Egypt over a separate proposal to host the World Cup in 2030. The four-week tournament in Qatar, which begins on November 20, offers “Qatar and the entire region an opportunity to present itself to the world in a different light and in a different way, and I think once and for all get rid of some prejudices that unfortunately still exist,” said Infantino.
His comments came two days after Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, responded to “double standards” unleashed in an “unprecedented campaign” of criticism over issues including the treatment of foreign workers and LGBTQ and women’s rights was.
FIFA awarded the World Cup to an Arab country for the first time in 2010. Since then it has spent tens of billions of dollars preparing but has come under intense human rights scrutiny.
The Gulf state has been heavily criticized for its treatment of the migrant workers who built the infrastructure for Qatar’s economic miracle.
Foreigners make up more than 2.5 million of the 2.9 million population.
Conditions and safety standards on construction sites have long been condemned by international trade unions.
Human rights groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have insisted Qatar and FIFA should do more to compensate workers who died or were injured in Qatar’s mega-projects.
They are demanding that FIFA set up a $440 million compensation fund – equal to the World Cup prize money.
But the reforms to the labor system and practices have been praised by union leaders who have previously fought against the government.
Infantino highlighted these reforms in his comments on Thursday.
“Some real changes have already happened. For example, if we talk about workers’ rights, which is and has been an important issue, minimum wages for all workers were introduced in the region for the first time,” he said.
He also noted “significant improvements in workers’ welfare,” adding, “These changes have happened in Qatar in just a few years.”
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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