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Fri 14 Feb 2014 02:27 AM

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FIFA exec says World Cup 2022 can improve Qatar human rights

Theo Zwanziger tells EU panel that stripping Qatar of tournament could be counter-productive

FIFA exec says World Cup 2022 can improve Qatar human rights
Theo Zwanziger, president of the German football association (DFB). (Getty Images)

The 2022 World Cup should stay in Qatar to keep the pressure on the Gulf nation to improve its labour rights record, a FIFA executive committee member said on Thursday.

"People have been asking when FIFA would be taking the World Cup away from Qatar but I think that would be counter-productive," Theo Zwanziger told a European parliament sub-committee on human rights.

"It would mean the current situation, the human rights violations would go on. It would simply mean that the spotlight would be put away from them."

Qatar has been under fire for its treatment of migrant workers in the construction industry after Britain'sGuardian newspaper reported in September that dozens of Nepali labourers had died.

"What is now important is to use the pressure that you get from this global event, which interests billions of people, as an opportunity to ask Qatar to show it's an open and tolerant country," German Zwanziger added.

"They need to show this as quickly as possible."

Amnesty International and the International Trade Union Confederation have also criticised the treatment of migrant labourers in Qatar, fearing the problem could worsen with the extra construction work needed for the tournament.

On Tuesday, Qatari World Cup organisers produced a 50-page document outlining stricter measures that would apply to contractors involved in building work for the tournament.

Barbara Lochbilder, the head of the European Parliament committee, said Qatar had moved in the right direction although it had not shown any sign of reforming the kafala, a system where labourers are usually "sponsored" by their employer.

"There have been a number of improvements with regard to the working situation," she said. "On the downside, the government has not shown any sign it wants to reform the kafala system nor shown it wants to come up with a new system that would be specific to migrants."

The world players' union FIFPro said the respect of human rights should be a basic condition for any World Cup host nation in the future.

"The prestige and political significance of the highest level of sporting events - the World Cup or the Olympics - are great enough to motivate change if it is a non-negotiable precondition," said FIFPro'sJonas Baer-Hoffmann.

"While our mandate is to represent professional football players and safeguard their rights, we support our fellow union colleagues fighting for the same cause to ensure all workers can enjoy those very same rights and freedoms, regardless of their occupation."

The committee also heard from Zahir Belounis, a former French footballer who was prevented from leaving Qatar for 17 months after he fell into a dispute with a local club.

"This kafala system is not for our time," he said. "All I wanted to do was to go home to France. I went through two years of torture (hell) and decided to stop playing because I no longer had the strength."

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Anon 6 years ago

This guy is really astonishing. His logic is to let a dictatorship host the worlds top sporting event as this will help them get over their inherent inbred attitude toward lesser fortunate people. Many more will die in Qatar and sadly the Qatari's are simply interested in furthering their acquisition of material wealth and power and at any price.

Mick 6 years ago

Absolutely correct.

They don't care about football. The passion for the game is not driving this need to host a massive event like this. They'll still watch it on television because many won't get off the sofa. Either way, should be incredibly interesting to see the clashes of hundreds of thousands of foreigners with a tiny police force for open alcohol in the street and other potential visitors being refused entry for whatever reason.

Abdul Razzak Al Abdullah 6 years ago

I feel Qatar is really trying hard and dedicated to support football community , spending billions of $ where the whole world can benefit, please think positive, be supportive,give right advise , come up with creative plans for them to over come any difficulties, haven't seen any such comments , most narrow thinking !

Kafala means sponsorship : all those labors are supporting and feeding their families , do anyone think how to support them when they don't have any job

I am sure qatar is bringing all mandatories procedures to protect the labor's right , like salaries being paid in a payment system, health insurance , working hours , accommodations etc as whats already implemented in UAE.