Qatar’s much-criticised 2022 World Cup has been the victim of “malicious and unwarranted attacks”, a senior tournament official in the Gulf said on Monday. Nasser Al-Khater, assistant secretary general of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the body overseeing the organisation of the tournament in Qatar, also claimed that many of the country’s critics had not “set foot in the country”. “We’ve responded to our critics for a very long time to the detriment of the local people and local media,” he told a Soccerex Asia forum meeting in Doha. “We were under a lot of criticism we were under, I would say, malicious and unwarranted attacks.”
Since being controversially chosen to host football’s biggest event almost exactly six years ago, Qatar has received a barrage of international criticism. These have mostly focused on corruption allegations to secure the tournament in the first place and its poor human rights record, in relation to the almost two million migrant workers in the Gulf state. Qatar is the subject of an ongoing Swiss Attorney General investigation into corruption claims over the bidding process for the 2022 tournament, allegations always denied in Doha. It was also accused earlier this year by Amnesty International of using “forced labour” at one World Cup site. Qatar has tried to counter such claims by saying it is in the process of bringing in significant labour reforms. Later this month, the gas-rich state is expected to announce the end of its controversial “kafala” laws, which place restrictions on workers’ ability to change jobs and travel. In addition, last month the Supreme Committee announced that it would allow international trade union inspections of tournament stadium sites from next year. Khater added that he thought critics were being silenced. “I think it’s time critics started to listen to us. I think they are coming round to the fact that Qatar is not a bad idea,” he said.