The 2022 Fifa World Cup chief has underlined the Saudi-led boycotts’ rapprochement with Qatar over what he called their humanitarian and rights violations, vowing the Gulf state would be the “most tolerant, welcome and successful sporting event in the world”.
Thomas Bach added: “And above all, the emirate’s commitment to gender equality is clear. The Kingdom is a leading advocate of the concept of social inclusion and has launched two campaigns: Respect Qatar and #BeYourBest.”
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As the world’s top football body chose Qatar as hosts of the 2022 World Cup in 2014, it was widely acknowledged that the Qatari justice system applies severe punishments for homosexuality, including flogging, prison terms and even the death penalty, in a country that places high importance on cultural traditions.
Bach emphasised that the Saudi-led boycott had been lifted, laying to rest any fears of World Cup games being played in the repressive climate that had been created during the four-month walkout of football’s world governing body in early 2017.
“The situation on the ground in Qatar has improved immeasurably, as has the compliance with basic human rights, such as the freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association,” he said.
“We believe that an environment of stability and openness is best for our sport, as well as many others, and we fully support the royal decision to take the steps necessary to normalise the relationship between the two countries.”
But the new head of Fifa’s general assembly has said his body is ‘no more or less homophobic’ than anyone else.
Fifa’s secretary general Fatma Samoura added: “Qatar 2022 is embracing all who want to share a celebration of freedom and diversity. Soccer has the power to bring people together and unify people for a better future.”