Foster said it had been a “really difficult” decision to join the SBS coverage as he had thought about boycotting the World Cup amid reporting of the migrant deaths.
Former Socceroos captain Craig Foster will be part of SBS’ World Cup coverage. Source: AAP
“But of course, what that does is that can place you on the periphery of the event and can limit your voice and your opportunity to then raise these issues and to try and give a voice to these families in particular,” Foster told SBS News.
Human rights concerns have dominated the 2022 World Cup build-up
“I do think though, that it’s important to be involved to raise these issues, and to ensure that the football and the human rights come together in this World Cup,” he said.
A worker at the Lusail Stadium in Qatar. Source: Getty / Matthew Ashton, AMA
Foster is also supporting the #PayUpFIFA campaign, which is calling on the World Cup governing body to provide compensation to families of the migrant workers who had died.
“We can’t profit from this World Cup in good conscience without at least stepping forward and raising the issue of those families and doing something for them,” he said.
Human rights ‘will be central’ in the Qatar World Cup, Foster says
But he said this year would be the first time the game would be embedded with human rights, something the players, coaches and even fans could not avoid.
Australia is hosting the 2023 (Women’s) World Cup next year, and one of the most beautiful things about it, that will highlight now our own human rights abuses.
Other issues that should be discussed, Foster said, included the treatment of homosexuality, which is still a criminal offence in Qatar punishable with a jail sentence. Women in Qatar are also denied the right to make many key decisions about their lives due to the country’s male guardianship system.
Stadium 974, formerly knows as Ras Abu Aboud, will host matches at the 2022 World Cup. Source: Getty / Mustafa Abumunes
Fatma Al-Nuaimi, the Executive Director of Communications for the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy of the tournament, has insisted it is safe for LGBTIQ+ fans to attend the tournament. She said Qatar had hosted around 600 international events since being awarded hosting rights and says there hasn’t been one incident of discrimination.
After the report, the Qatari government said: “Every lost life is a tragedy, and no effort is spared in trying to prevent every death in our country.
German footballers ahead of their Qatar World Cup qualification match against Iceland in 2021. Source: Getty, AFP / Tobias Schwartz
Under the kafala system – a labour governance system used across the Arab Gulf as well as Jordan and Lebanon – migrant workers need their employer’s permission to leave their jobs or to leave the country.
‘2023 World Cup will also highlight Australia’s own issues’
When Australia hosts the Women’s World Cup next year, Foster says its own human rights issues will be highlighted. Source: AAP
While acknowledging that every country had some issue with human rights abuses, Foster believes there should be minimum standards for countries hosting the contest. He said the best outcome of Qatar would be to ensure FIFA is not allowed to make the same decision again, noting that Saudi Arabia was talking about bidding for the 2030 World Cup.
“FIFA cannot be talking about the women’s game and gender equality … and then holding male tournaments in countries where women’s basic rights are being abused.”
“The problem with sport is, it only exercises that power in crisis when it’s forced to.”
Why fans and athletes must not be silent at the World Cup
As a former player, Foster said he understood athletes were under pressure not to say anything about human rights abuses in the countries where they compete.
Are you going to pretend that this hasn’t occurred? Or are you going to speak up?
He said this is why Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton’s decision to wear a rainbow helmet in places such as Qatar was wonderful.
“What I’d say to every fan of Australian football is, you cannot turn a blind eye, you cannot be silent,” he said.
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