By GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Journalist
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — A Norwegian soccer official delivered a scathing criticism of World Cup host Qatar and FIFA to an audience of executives Thursday on the eve of the tournament draw.
Qatar’s record of protecting the rights of migrant workers – who have built tens of billions of dollars worth of projects needed for the World Cup – and its criminalization of homosexuality were aired by Lise Klaveness, the new head of the football in Norway and one of the few women to lead a FIFA member federation.
It was a rare display of dissent and tension at the usually well-scripted annual meeting of football’s 211 member nations, and the focused issues that have obsessed Qatar and FIFA’s controversial choice of the Middle Eastern country for more than a decade. ‘a decade.
“In 2010, the World Cup was awarded by FIFA in an unacceptable way with unacceptable consequences,” Klaveness, who is gay, said in a six-minute speech. “There is no place for employers who do not guarantee the freedom and safety of World Cup workers. No room for hosts who cannot legally guarantee the safety and respect of LGBTQ+ people coming to this theater of dreams.”
FIFA had worked this week in Doha to keep the Norwegian’s speech off the main Congress agenda, then gave way to rebuttals from a Latin American football official and the head of the FIFA organizing committee. Qatar.
“This is the wrong forum and the wrong time,” Honduran Football Federation secretary general Jose Ernesto Mejia said in translated comments.
Klaveness was reprimanded by Hassan Al-Thawadi, who nominated Qatar more than 12 years ago and has led the organizing committee ever since.
“You did not attempt to contact us and did not attempt to engage in dialogue prior to addressing congress today,” he said.
Al-Thawadi said Qatar’s door was always open for people to “educate themselves before passing judgement”.
Both Qatar and FIFA have always said that hosting the World Cup in the country has accelerated positive changes in the country’s laws and society.
The war in Ukraine then took center stage when a three-minute video message was released by the head of the country’s football federation, Andriy Pavelko.
Pavelko wore an armored vest as he spoke from kyiv while behind him people packed meter-high sandbags to protect a monument.
He said children in Ukraine suffered “terrible psychological injuries” during the war and that maybe football would help them in the future.
The Russian delegation looks on in the room including Alexey Sorokin, a former member of the FIFA Council who led the organization of the 2018 World Cup in his country.
Although FIFA has banned Russian teams, including the men’s national team, from qualifying for the World Cup, the football federation has not been suspended.
“We are not hiding,” Sorokin said before the meeting. “We have every right to be here.”
On Friday, the World Cup draw ceremony will take place at the same conference center.
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