Nasser Al Khater, Qatar 2022 CEO, has said he would like a meeting with Gareth Southgate after the England manager called into question the treatment of migrant workers in the Gulf State and claimed it was a “great shame” some England fans would not travel to this year’s World Cup.
Accusations concerning the treatment of migrant workers and a poor record of human rights have plagued Qatar since it was controversially awarded the World Cup finals back in 2010.
Southgate recently said he was now “clear” on the issues of hosting the World Cup in the region and that he plans to hold talks with his squad about these issues.
However, in an interview with Sky Sports News Chief, Al Khater has responded by saying he “respects” Southgate as a coach and person but has defended Qatar’s treatment of workers.
“My question would be, who from the England squad has come to Qatar? My question to the coach is, has he been to Qatar? Is he basing his opinions and his public statements on what he has read?” he said.
“Because it is kind of an issue if you’re basing your opinions and you are very vocal about that based on things you have read. Somebody with a lot of influence, such as Southgate, somebody with a big audience that listens to what he says, ought to pick his words very carefully.
Somebody with a lot of influence, such as Southgate, somebody with a big audience that listens to what he says, ought to pick his words very carefully
“And I think that before making statements like that, when it comes to the workers, he needs to come here and speak to workers and understand what workers get out of being here.
“There are isolated cases, those are the cases that make it to the media, however, I can assure him that if he comes here and speaks to the majority of the workers, they will tell you how they put their children through university, they will tell you how they’ve built their houses for them and their families.
“And these are the stories that nobody hears, so I look forward to welcoming him here, I look forward to meeting him at the draw and he can listen to my opinion, he does not have to believe it, but at least he needs to go that far to understand different opinions and different cultures.
“No country is perfect, let’s get that right and I do not think anybody can claim that, so if somebody is coming and claiming they are a perfect country, they need to really take a look at themselves.”
Sky Sports News understands that Southgate has visited Qatar.
Southgate also suggested some of England’s LGBTQ+ supporters would not travel to Qatar for the tournament given that in the Gulf State, male homosexuality is punishable by a prison sentence, same-sex marriages are not recognised by the government and women’s rights are much more restricted than in other parts of the world.
But Al Khater responded by reassuring all fans they would be safe in Qatar as long as they respected the region’s norms and cultures.
“First of all, people need to understand Qatar is the safest country in the Middle East, it is the second safest country in the world, people need to understand what that safety means and why it is the safest country in the Middle East and why it is one of the safest countries in the world,” he said.
“There is a lot of meaning in that, and I can assure fans that the reason they won’t feel safe here is because of the lack of understanding and the lack of understanding of tolerance.
“So again, people are basing their opinions and fears on things they do not understand and that is usually what causes apprehension with human beings, a lack of understanding.
“People are going to feel safe here, people are going to be very comfortable, what I can say to fans is, we are a modest country, we have our culture, we have our norms, what we ask of them is to respect it. What that means is, whether you are a gay couple, whether you are a heterosexual couple, we have the same norms, we look at it the same way.
“So, all we ask is for people to be respectful, like we are respectful when we travel around the world, and basically just to observe these cultural differences. Basically what it means is public displays of affection is frowned upon, that is simply it.”
Southgate will be travelling to Qatar for Friday’s World Cup draw, with Al Khater offering to meet with the England manager to discuss the issues.
“If he [Gareth Southgate] is watching this interview, I extend him my deepest respect, I respect him as a coach, I respect him as a human being, like I said, I don’t have any issues with people’s opinions and obviously, when somebody has a different opinion you give them your side of the story,” he added.
“We can agree to disagree, but that is fine.”