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FIFA urges World Cup squads to focus on football rather than politics

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Senior FIFA officials have urged the 32 teams preparing for the most political World Cup of the modern era to focus on the game in Qatar and avoid giving moral lessons.

A letter urging teams to ‘let football take center stage’ was sent by FIFA President Gianni Infantino and General Secretary Fatma Samoura ahead of the intense media focus on coaches and players during the announces World Cup squads next week.

“Please let’s focus on football now!” Infantino and Samoura wrote, calling on the 32 football associations to “not allow football to be drawn into any ideological or political battles that exist”.

Qatar, chosen in 2010 as host of the World Cup, has drawn scrutiny for its treatment of low-paid migrant workers needed to build projects costing tens of billions of dollars and for its laws criminalizing same-sex relations.

FIFA’s comments in defense of Qatar follow more vocal criticism in recent weeks by public officials, including the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, ahead of the November 20 kick-off.

Two weeks ago, the emir denounced “fabrications and double standards” in an “unprecedented campaign” against a World Cup host country.

Eight European teams have pledged their captains to wear heart-shaped armbands – in violation of FIFA rules – to support an anti-discrimination campaign launched in the Netherlands, and Australian players took part in a video broadcasting concerns about Qatar’s human rights record.

Several coaches and federations, including the United States, have supported calls for the creation of a compensation fund for the families of migrant workers. The Denmark team wears a black team jersey as a sign of “mourning” for those who died in Qatar.

The Dutch football federation pushed back against FIFA on Friday night, reiterating its commitment to leave “lasting improvements to the situation of migrant workers in Qatar”.

The Netherlands will face Qatar on November 29 in Group A, and team officials pledged on Friday to lobby FIFA to establish a long-term resource center in Doha for migrant workers when the 211 member federations of world football will meet a few hours before attending the opening match of the World Cup.

Iran have also been called out ahead of facing England in the second match of the World Cup on November 21 in a group that also includes the United States.

Iranian fan groups want the federation suspended for discriminating against women, and Ukrainian football officials have asked FIFA to withdraw Iran from the World Cup for violating human rights and for supplying weapons to the Russian army.

Infantino left Switzerland to live in Doha last year during preparations for what he has always said will be the best World Cup ever.

“We know that football does not live in a vacuum, and we are also aware that there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all over the world,” FIFA leaders wrote in their letter on Thursday. does not address or identify any specific item. publish.

“At FIFA, we try to respect all opinions and beliefs without giving moral lessons to the rest of the world. One of the great strengths of the world is indeed its very diversity, and if inclusion means anything, that means having respect for that diversity.”

Infantino and Samoura added: “No people, culture or nation is ‘better’ than another. This principle is the very cornerstone of mutual respect and non-discrimination. And it is also the one of the fundamental values ​​of football.”

They reiterated Qatar’s long-standing promises, including from its Emir at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September, that all visitors to Qatar will be welcome “regardless of origin, , religion, sex, sexual orientation or nationality”.

In another internal interview published by FIFA on Friday, Samoura acknowledged the perception of Qatar “as a conservative society, like my own country in Senegal.”

“But let me tell you one thing: Qataris are the most hospitable people you can find on earth,” said the former UN official, who is also of the Muslim faith.

Frustration over the scrutiny of the first Arab World Cup host has led at least two government ministers to suggest race as a motive this week.

“Is such racism acceptable in Europe in the 21st century? Football belongs to everyone,” Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said in an interview with French daily Le Monde published on Friday.

Labor Minister Ali bin Samikh Al Marri said calls for the creation of a compensation fund for migrant workers were a “publicity stunt” and cited a Qatar-backed program that had paid out tens of millions of dollars.

FIFA and Qatar officials have long pushed for the World Cup host to speed up the modernization of labor laws which Samoura said on Friday was accepted as a model for regional neighbors to follow.

About 1.2 million international visitors are expected in Qatar for the tournaments from November 20 to December 18.