Former soccer team Craig Foster has been a vocal critic of the 2022 soccer World Cup in Qatar, but agreed to be part of SBS’s coverage of the 2022 event, saying he wanted to ensure human rights issues were discussed.
SBS has confirmed that Foster will be a guest host and analyst for its coverage of the World Cup, which will take place between November 20 and December 18.
Foster previously described the competition as “the most problematic and controversial World Cup in history,” citing at least reports from The Guardian. It embarked on an unprecedented building program.
The US Department of Justice also alleged that some FIFA officials were bribed to give Qatar the right to vote to host the World Cup. All current and former FIFA officials have denied any wrongdoing, and Qatari officials have denied any wrongdoing over the bid.
Foster said it was a “really difficult” decision to join SBS because he was considering a World Cup boycott amid reporting migrant deaths.
Former Socceroos captain Craig Foster will be featured in SBS’ coverage of the World Cup. source: AAP
“But of course, what this does is it can put you on the sidelines and it can limit your voice and your opportunity then to raise these issues and try to give a voice to these families in particular,” Foster told SBS News.
Human rights concerns dominated preparations for the 2022 World Cup
Instead, Foster said he decided to be part of existing coverage in Australia and donate his fees to the families of the deceased migrant workers.
“I don’t want to go to Qatar and spend my money,” Foster said. “I don’t want to go to Qatar and take happy pictures like [Qatar ambassador] David Beckham says that everything is OK because it is not OK. So I will work on this World Cup from here in Australia.”
Foster said he was “not prepared to take advantage of the World Cup being held on the backs of … dead migrant workers.”
“However, I think it is important to participate in raising these issues, and to ensure the integrity of football and human rights in this World Cup,” he said.
A worker at Lusail Stadium in Qatar. source: GT / Matthew Ashton, AMA
Foster also supports the #PayUpFIFA campaign, which calls on the World Cup governing body to provide compensation to the families of migrant workers who have died.
“We cannot take advantage of the World Cup in good conscience without at least stepping up and raising the issue of those families and doing something for them,” he said.
Foster says human rights will be ‘central’ at the World Cup in Qatar
Foster said the World Cup is an important month to talk about football as well as an opportunity to discuss the different cultures, languages, people and religions that have brought it together in the “global game”.
But he said that this year will be the first time the game has been integrated with human rights, something that players, coaches and even fans cannot avoid.
Australia will host the 2023 (women’s) World Cup next year, and one of the most beautiful things about it, which will now shed light on our human rights violations.
“Human rights for the first time are going to be really central to this World Cup, and I think that’s fantastic,” he said.
“I mean, 20, 30 years ago, even when I was playing, human rights was not at the forefront of the sport but because society has much greater expectations for all industries… these expectations raise the bar for the behavior of the sport… and this is a very positive step forward” .
Foster said people increasingly wanted the sport to live up to its mantras and politics about being a force for good in the world.
“What sport does is it can focus on these kinds of abuse and harm and it can let the world know it’s happening. But to do that, we have to talk about it.”
Foster said other issues that should be discussed include the treatment of homosexuality, which remains a criminal offense in Qatar punishable by imprisonment. Women in Qatar are also denied the right to make many important decisions about their lives due to the country’s male guardianship system.
Stadium 974, formerly known as Ras Abu Aboud, will host the 2022 World Cup matches. source: GT / Mustafa Abu Mons
Fatima Al Nuaimi, Executive Director of Communications at the tournament’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, confirmed that it is safe for LGBTIQ+ fans to attend the tournament. She said Qatar has hosted about 600 international events since it was granted hosting rights and says there has not been a single incident of discrimination.
“We constantly assure everyone that everyone is welcome,” Ms. Al-Naimi told SBS News.
“Everyone will be able to come and enjoy matches and support their teams, regardless of their background, religion or gender.”
The Guardian reported in 2021 that 6,500 migrant workers had died in Qatar since the tournament was awarded, though it said death records did not categorize their employer or workplace, and it was unclear how many were working on World Cup infrastructure projects.
After the report, the Qatari government said: “Every sacrifice is a tragedy, and we spare no effort in trying to prevent every death in our country.”
German footballers before the Qatar World Cup qualifier match against Iceland in 2021. source: Getty, AFP / Tobias Schwartz
“Unfortunately, of the millions of residents from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal who lived in Qatar from 2011 to 2019, a very small percentage unfortunately passed away.
“Although each loss of life is alarming, the death rate among these communities falls within the expected range for population size and demographics.”
Nasser Al-Khater, CEO of the Qatar 2022 World Cup, said last year .
“Unfortunately, a lot of the entities that set these up [rights] They didn’t even come here to see things for themselves,” said Mr. Khater.
“Qatar has been a pioneer in improving workers’ rights and improving workers’ living standards, introducing a minimum wage and abolishing the sponsorship system.”
Under the kafala system – the labor governance system used throughout the Persian Gulf as well as Jordan and Lebanon – migrant workers need their employer’s permission to leave their jobs or leave the country.
‘The 2023 World Cup will also shine a spotlight on Australia’s own issues’
Foster said the global promotion that comes with hosting the World Cup should come at a cost.
“ Next year, and one of the most beautiful things about it, which will now shed light on our violations of human rights, and give us an opportunity to talk about our claims to be a country that respects human rights, and in particular, the rights of indigenous peoples,” he said.
When Australia hosts the Women’s World Cup next year, Foster says its human rights issues will be highlighted. source: AAP
While acknowledging that every country has some problems with human rights abuses, Foster believes there should be a minimum standard for countries hosting the contest. He said that Qatar’s best outcome would be to ensure that FIFA was not allowed to make the same decision again, noting that Saudi Arabia had been talking about a bid to host the 2030 World Cup.
Of the minimum standards that should be imposed, he said: “I think women’s rights are very clear rights, LGBT, transgender and intersex rights and non-discrimination on the basis of sex is very important.” For these two, they shouldn’t host.”
“FIFA cannot talk about the women’s game and gender equality…and then hold tournaments for men in countries where the basic rights of women are violated.”
He said the principles of non-discrimination on the grounds of religion, gender and gender already exist in the laws of FIFA and the International Olympic Committee.
On a more positive note, Foster said there have already been changes in Qatar thanks to the World Cup.
“While they do not have the rights they should have, the situation of migrant workers in Qatar today is much better than it was 12 years ago,” he said. “Now that is the power of sport.
“The problem with sport is that it only wields that power in a crisis when you have to.”
Why fans and athletes should not be silent at the World Cup
Foster hopes the members of the Sokeros Club, He’s going to make some kind of statement at the World Cup.
“All of these players have a similar decision to make, as does every announcer, whether here or around the world, how are you going to deal with it? Are you going to pretend it didn’t happen? Or are you going to speak up?”
As a former player, Foster said he understands that athletes are under pressure to not say anything about human rights abuses in the countries in which they compete.
Are you going to pretend that didn’t happen? Or will you speak?
If you play for Newcastle United [the English Premier League club majority-owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund]”You are under great pressure not to talk about women’s rights, gays and … arbitrary executions in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“If you are a Formula 1 driver, you are under a lot of pressure not to say anything when you go to Bahrain, when you go to Saudi Arabia to race.”
He said that was why Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton’s decision to wear a rainbow helmet in places like Qatar was so remarkable.
“Participation is one thing but silence and turn a blind eye, that is the one thing no one can do in this World Cup,” Foster said. “Certainly if I had anything to do with that, they wouldn’t be allowed to.”
While Foster acknowledged that many fans prefer to focus solely on the game, he believes they need to understand that this year’s competition has accounted for around 6,500 deaths.
“What I’m saying to every Australian football fan is that you can’t turn a blind eye, you can’t be silent,” he said.
He said the game also had many LGBTIQ+ fans, who had the same right to enjoy the event.
“They can’t because in a place like this they are in danger, they are not safe and they are in danger and we all have a responsibility to them.”
Foster said that football and sports in general use the term “our sports family” a lot.
Well, he said, the family should stand shoulder to shoulder with each other, that’s the point.
“If anyone is left out at any World Cup – and there are many when it comes to Qatar 2022 – we have a responsibility to stand up for them.”
Watch every FIFA World Cup 2022 match live, free and exclusive on SBS.