DAVOS, Switzerland — The 2022 World Cup hosted by Qatar is expected to be watched by five billion people around the world, International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) president Gianni Infantino said on Monday.
The TV audiences for the 2018 World Cup in Russia was a record-breaking 3.5 billion people.
Qatar, a small but wealthy Gulf Arab state, will host the first World Cup in the Middle East starting late November.
Its ruling Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on Monday criticized attacks on Qatar by some people, “including many in positions of influence,” over its hosting of the event.
“Even today, there are still people who cannot accept the idea, that an Arab Muslim country, would host a tournament, like the World Cup,” he said in a speech at the World Economic Forum.
He said Qatar, like other states, was “not perfect” but has pushed reforms and development. Reforms include raising the minimum wage and new rules authorities say are designed to protect workers, including from heat stress.
Qatar has come under intense criticism from human rights groups over its treatment of migrant workers, who along with other foreigners comprise the bulk of the country’s population.
High profile soccer stars like England manager Gareth Southgate have raised concerns over the human rights of some fans traveling to Qatar, especially women and LGBT+ fans.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar. There are concerns over the status of women, some of whom need permission from a male relative to marry, work in government jobs and travel overseas.
Tournament organizers stress that everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or background, is welcome in Qatar, while also warning fans against public displays of affection.
Qatar has said its labor system is still a work in progress, and denied a 2021 Amnesty International report that thousands of migrant workers were still being exploited. — Reuters