David Beckham says Qatar will be a place for ‘progress’ while ignoring World Cup backlash

Collage of David Beckham, the World Cup trophy and screens showing his speech to crowds

David Beckham has said that the World Cup in Qatar will be a platform for “progress” and “tolerance”, ignoring criticism of his multi-million pound deal with the anti-LGBTQ+ country.

Speaking via video link at the Generation Amazing youth festival in Doha, Qatar, Beckham reportedly told attendees that the football pitch is a “platform for progress” ahead of the World Cup beginning on Sunday (20 November).

According to The Guardian, the former England footballer said: “Qatar dreamed of bringing the World Cup to a place that it had never been before, but that it wouldn’t be enough just to achieve things on the pitch… the pitch would be a platform for progress.”

He added: “Dreams can come true. That’s why you’re here. You share Generation Amazing’s twin passions for the game of football and for making the world a more tolerant and inclusive place.”

It appears Beckham has no plans to cut ties with Qatar, as criticism of his deal to act as a paid ambassador for the country during the World Cup increases.

Qatar criminalises same-sex relations with up to seven years imprisonment. For Muslim men, it’s possible to be sentenced to death for gay sex under Sharia law, and there have been reports that abuses and arrests of LGBTQ+ Qataris as recently as October.

Beckham partnering with the country flies in the face of his previous LGBTQ+ allyship, critics have said.

Comedian Joe Lycett has threatened to shred £10,000 of his own money if the former footballer doesn’t end the deal.

On Sunday (13 November), Lycett released a video addressed to the former footballer, explaining that if he cuts ties with Qatar he will donate the money to LGBTQ+ charities, however if he doesn’t, the money will be shredded, along with Beckham’s “status as a gay icon”.

“If you do not [end his relationship with Qatar] I will throw the money into a shredder at midday next Sunday… Not just the money, but also your status as gay icon will be shredded.

“Also you’ll be forcing me to commit what might be a crime. Although even then, I reckon I’ll get off more lightly than I would if I got caught whacking off a lad in Doha.”

Lycett has since shared an update on Twitter, admitting that Beckham had not responded to his video, despite him sending emails to his publicist.

On Wednesday (16 November), the comedian shared an email reading: “I’ve been a bit daft and publicly announced that I’m going to shred £10k on Sunday if David doesn’t end his relationship with Qatar… we’re now four days out and I haven’t heard a peep from him.

“Could you do me a solid and let me know if there’s any chance he might budge on his position, or am I to expect radio silence on this?

“I really don’t want to shred ten grand!!!”

Beckham has not publicly addressed Lycett’s ultimatum, and did not mention the video in his speech.