Norway’s football chief Lise Klaveness openly criticized the FIFA 2022 World Cup‘s Qatari hosts over the country’s human rights record at the FIFA congress in a rare show of dissent and tension in the typically tightly scripted annual meeting of football’s 211 member countries.
A day before the tournament’s draw was set to take place, the president of Norwegian football — one of the few women ever to lead a FIFA member federation — stepped up on the stage at the governing body’s congress to air her concerns.
Lise Klaveness, a former national team player, spoke about Qatar’s abysmal record of migrant worker rights — who have built tens of billions of dollars of projects needed for the World Cup — and its criminalization of the LGBTQ+ community.
Klaveness raised issues that FIFA and its Middle Eastern country host has tried to dodge for more than a decade only three weeks after she was elected in Norway with a mandate to pressure the World Cup organizers.
In 2010, the World Cup was awarded by FIFA in unacceptable ways with unacceptable consequences,” Klaveness said in a six-minute speech.
“There is no room for employers who do not secure the freedom and safety of World Cup workers. No room for hosts that cannot legally guarantee the safety and respect of LGBTQ+ people coming to this theater of dreams.
Hassan Al-Thawadi, the Supreme Committee Secretary-General charged with delivering the World Cup, told assembled delegates in his rebuttal that he was disappointed by Klaveness’s comments, and that she had visited Qatar but made no contact or request for any meeting.
“You did not attempt to contact us and did not attempt to engage in dialogue before addressing congress today,” he said, adding that Qatar’s door was open for people to “educate themselves before passing any judgement.”
Human rights and labor activists have also long been concerned that deaths on all Qatari construction projects, not just football stadiums, have not been accurately calculated nor investigated.
Qatar was later defended by FIFA President Gianni Infantino when he took the stage.
“The work that has been done has been exemplary,” Infantino said. “Of course, not everything is perfect. But progress has been made.”
Qatar will host the 32-team football World Cup this year from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18th.