World Cup: Australia becomes first team to publicly criticise Qatar’s human rights record

Players from the Australia national football team, known as the Socceroos, huddle together in a match. Several players from the team released a statement denouncing Qatar's human rights record ahead of the World Cup in November

Australia has become the first team to slam Qatar’s poor human rights record, including the criminalisation of LGBTQ+ people in the country, ahead of the World Cup.

Several members of the Socceroos, Australia’s national football team, raised their concerns about the suffering of migrant workers and the criminalisation of LGBTQ+ people in Qatar in a collective video. 

“There are universal values that should define football – values such as respect, dignity, trust and courage,” the players said. “When we represent our nation, we aspire to embody these values.”

The 16 players said the “suffering” felt by migrant workers and their families caused by the World Cup “cannot be ignored”. 

They acknowledged that some progress has taken place in Qatar before the World Cup’s kick-off in November, but they said the implementation of widespread reform “remains inconsistent and requires improvement”. 

The Socceroos players also denounced the inability of LGBTQ+ people in Qatar to “love the person that they choose”.

Homosexuality is illegal in the Gulf state. Same-sex relationships are outlawed and carry a punishment of several years in jail, hefty fines and, in some cases, queer people could face death. 

A damning report from Human Rights Watch revealed many queer Qataris have faced entrapment, harassment and abuse by authorities as recently as last month.

“As players, we fully support the rights of LGBTI+ people, but in Qatar, people are not free to love the person that they choose,” the players said. 

The players called for Qatar to establish a “migrant resource centre, effective remedy for those who have been denied their rights and the decriminalisation of all same-sex relationships.

“These are the basic rights that should be afforded to all and will ensure continued progress in Qatar and a legacy that goes well beyond the final whistle of the 2022 Fifa World Cup,” they added. 

Football Australia also released a statement criticising Qatar’s human rights record. The Australian football body echoed the players’ calls for a migrant worker’s centre and ensure LGBTQ+ people in Qatar can live openly and freely without fear of persecution. 

“Football Australia has also been working closely with LGBTI+ communities to continue strengthening our inclusive and welcoming environment in our game throughout Australia,” it said.

The statement continued: “As the most multicultural, diverse, and inclusive sport in our country, we believe everyone should be able to feel safe and be their true authentic selves. 

“Whilst we acknowledge the highest levels of assurances given by HH Amir of Qatar and the President of FIFA that LGBTI+ fans will be safely welcomed in Qatar, we hope that this openness can continue beyond the tournament.”

Visitors take photos with a FIFA World Cup sign in Doha, Qatar

Qatar World Cup organisers ‘commended’ the Australian football players for ‘raising awareness for important matters’ but did not promise to bring forward change. (Getty)

Qatar World Cup organisers ‘commended’ the Australian footballers for using their platforms to “raise awareness for important matters”, CNN reported. 

But instead of promising to bring forward change, a spokesperson for Qatar’s Supreme Committee pushed back against criticism of Qatar’s human rights record, saying “no country is perfect”. 

“No country is perfect, and every country – hosts of major events or not – has its challenges,” the spokesperson said. “New laws and reforms often take time to bed in, and robust implementation of labour laws is a global challenge, including in Australia.”