Australia’s men’s national football team have condemned Qatar for its human rights record ahead of the highly anticipated World Cup.
On 20 November, teams from around the world are set to compete in the highly-anticipated 2022 FIFA World Cup – which will be held in the Gulf region.
Since the news was announced, activists and footballers have expressed concerns over the tournament’s location due to the country’s anti-LGBTQ laws and treatment of foreign workers.
In Qatar, homosexuality is illegal and can be punished by penalties including flogging, imprisonment and even execution.
With the tournament right around the corner, players from Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) – aka the Socceroos – have called on the gulf region to introduce inclusive changes regarding their conservative laws.
“Through football, those of us that have had the honour to represent our country have had the opportunity to learn about the world and its people,” the players said in a video message released on 26 October.
“There are universal values that should define football. Values such as respect, dignity, trust and courage. When we represent our nation, we aspire to embody these values.”
After highlighting the troubling conditions migrant workers face in the country, the PFA players went on to showcase their support for the LGBTQ+ community.
“As players, we fully support the rights of the LGBTI+ people, but in Qatar, people are not free to love the person that they choose,” they said.
Towards the end of their video, the Socceroos called on Qatar to implement an array of reforms, including a migrant resource center, helping individuals who have been denied their rights and the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships.
A message from the Socceroos. pic.twitter.com/Sd2R6ej8kK
— Socceroos (@Socceroos) October 26, 2022
“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.”
In addition to the Socceroos’ video message, Football Australia also released a statement echoing similar sentiments.
“Our representation at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 gives us the opportunity to raise awareness of some important matters and help affect change globally and domestically,” the organisation on its website.
“Football Australia has also been working closely with LGBTI+ communities to continue strengthening our inclusive and welcoming environment in our game throughout Australia.
“Whilst we acknowledge the highest levels of assurances given by HH Amir of Qatar and the President of FIFA that LGBTI+ fans will be safely welcomed in Qatar, we hope that this openness can continue beyond the tournament.”
In response to the recent pushback, World Cup organisers told The Guardian that they “commended” the PFA players for using “their platforms to raise awareness for important matters.”
While the committee seemingly addressed the workers’ rights portion of the video, they didn’t directly respond to the section regarding the LGBTQ+ community.
“No country is perfect, and every country – hosts of major events or not – has its challenges,” they added.