FIFA head visits controversial WC2022 host Qatar
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has met with the emir of Qatar on a visit to Doha which is hosting the 2022 World Cup, the committee overseeing preparations for the event said Thursday.
Infantino toured the Khalifa International Stadium, a main World Cup venue which will also host the 2019 World Athletics Championships, said the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy.
The visit comes as controversy has swirled over Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup with rights groups harshly criticising labour laws in the energy-rich Gulf country which relies on mainly foreign labourers.
In a 51-page report released last month, Amnesty International said that Qatar World Cup stadium workers have suffered abuse and been subjected to forced labour.
The London-based watchdog specifically mentioned the Khalifa stadium where it said labourers, mostly from Bangladesh, India and Nepal, were lied to over their salaries, went unpaid for months and were housed in squalid accommodation.
“This is a World Cup based on labour exploitation,” said Amnesty’s Mustafa Qadri.
Qatar, which has insisted it was committed to the welfare of the workers, dismissed the Amnesty report as a “misleading picture”.
Infantino arrived Wednesday from a two-day visit to Moscow, where he met Russian President Vladimir Putin and gave an overall positive assessment of the state of preparations for Russia’s 2018 World Cup.
The head of football’s world governing body told Putin that he had seen “progress” in Russia’s preparations to host the tournament and praised the government for its work, Russian news agencies reported.
“If I compliment Russia it doesn’t mean that as of today or tomorrow Russia can sit down and wait until summer of 2018,” he told reporters.
The bidding process for the tournament, as well as that of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup, has come under scrutiny as part of twin Swiss and US corruption investigations into FIFA’s practices.
Infantino is expected to hold a news conference on Friday as he wraps up his visit to Qatar.
FIFA has said in the past that it is aware of “the risks” faced by workers in Qatar, adding the World Cup was a “catalyst for significant change”.