Australia’s national team players have become the first country to publicly speak out against Qatar’s human rights record ahead of this year’s World Cup.
The Socceroos stars have published a video that highlights the damning way in which the Middle Eastern nation continues to treat migrant workers and LGBTQ+ people.
A total of 16 Australia players were featured in the video, and include skipper Mat Ryan, Sunderland’s Bailey Wright, Hearts’ KyeRowles and Alex Wilkinson, who is the president of players’ union Professional Footballers Australia and earned 16 caps for the Socceroos.
“Addressing these issues is not easy, and we do not have all the answers,” the players said in the video.
“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 and a legacy that goes well beyond the final whistle of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”
The controversial ‘Kafala’ system was also addressed in the video, and the squad praised the steps taken to abolish the system, which allowed employers to take away workers’ passports to prevent them leaving the country.
However, it was pointed out that the delivery of these measures has been too inconsistent and that more still needs to be done to protect workers’ rights.
There has been wide-scale criticism for Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers, with Amnesty International claiming that human rights abuses “persist on a significant scale.”
Their report states that weak regulation and a lack of enforcement by the measures to protect migrant workers means there “is still a long way to go.”
The report said: “Despite the positive evolution of Qatar’s labour system, substantial work remains to effectively implement and enforce these [changes].
“Ultimately, human rights abuses persist on a significant scale today.”
The Qatari supreme committee for delivery and legacy have sought to ease the concerns raised in their statement and said: “The advancements in workers’ welfare is a legacy we are very proud of, and one that we are already seeing in action. We have always believed that the World Cup will be a catalyst to accelerate positive initiatives, leaving a legacy of meaningful and sustainable progress for the country and region.
“Work is ongoing and there is of course still room for improvement. We are continuing to explore alongside key partners the opportunities to enhance the legacy that improves the lives of workers and lays the foundation for fair, sustainable and lasting reforms.”
Meanwhile, Adelaide United’s Josh Cavallo also urged FIFA to carefully consider which countries host major tournament in the future.
He made a vow to stand up for LGBTQ+ players and fans at the World Cup, after he came out as gay in October and became the first active men’s player to do so.
Australia will begin their World Cup campaign on November 22 against France, before playing Tunisia four days later and concluding the group stage in a game with Denmark on November 30.
Denmark have also highlighted Qatar’s human rights abuses with their kit supplier Hummel designing plain red home jerseys and an all-white change top. The sportswear manufacturer wishes “not to be visible” at the event. – Eurosport