Doha (AFP) - The head of the Asian Football Confederation on Thursday brushed off criticism over World Cup host Qatar’s human rights record, instead lavishing praise on the Gulf country’s organisation of the tournament.
Qatar has come under increasing scrutiny over its rights record, particularly its treatment of migrant labourers, women and the LGBTQ community, since winning the bid to host football’s top tournament.
AFC chief Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa, a member of Bahrain’s ruling family, on Thursday appeared to launch a sharp attack on Qatar’s critics in remarks to journalists, evoking the Arabic proverb “the dogs bark but the caravan moves on”.
Though he made no explicit mention of the first part of the proverb, his comment appeared to dismiss the criticism of Qatar as “barking”, whilst praising the country’s performance in hosting the event.
“The organisation is luminous, the environment is positive,” he said. “Our (Qatari) brothers didn’t fail in delivering the facilities and stadiums and I believe it will be one of the most successful tournaments.”
Qatar has repeatedly accused its critics of “double standards” and even “racism”, pointing to their recent reforms of labour laws as signs of improvement.
The latest run-in over rights criticism came Wednesday when German players covered their mouths in a protest against FIFA’s decision to ban rainbow-themed armbands at this year’s World Cup.