FIFA urges World Cup countries to 'focus on football' not Qatar human rights issues

Critics claim FIFA's messaging shows it is out of touch, ITV News reporter Rachel Townsend reports

FIFA has written to World Cup countries urging them to "focus on football" not human rights issues ahead of the tournament in Qatar.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino and secretary general Fatma Samoura wrote a letter to the 32 teams asking them to "let football take centre stage".

The letter added that FIFA "tries to respect all opinions and beliefs, without handing out moral lessons".

The 2022 World Cup is set to kick off in Qatar on November 20, but the country has been scrutinised for its treatment of workers and laws for women and LGBTQ+ people.

A report published by The Guardian last year – “categorically” denied by authorities – said 6,500 migrant workers had died in Qatar since it was awarded the World Cup ten years ago.The Gulf state has also been criticised for its anti-LGBTQ laws and the prosecution of women who have been sexually assaulted.

Eight European teams have committed to their captains wearing heart-shaped armbands - in breach of FIFA rules - to support the OneLove anti-discrimination campaign.

England skipper Harry Kane is one of several national captains who plan to participate in the campaign.

However, FIFA's letter asked teams to “not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.”

Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup in 2010.

Infantino and Samoura wrote: “We know football does not live in a vacuum and we are equally aware that there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all around the world.

“At FIFA, we try to respect all opinions and beliefs, without handing out moral lessons to the rest of the world.

"One of the great strengths of the world is indeed its very diversity, and if inclusion means anything, it means having respect for that diversity.

“No one people or culture or nation is ‘better’ than any other.

"This principle is the very foundation stone of mutual respect and non-discrimination.

"And this is also one of the core values of football."

The letter added: "Please, let’s now focus on the football!"

Gareth Southgate insisted the tournament should go ahead. Credit: PA

On Wednesday, England manager Gareth Southgate said he will continue to speak out about human rights issues but insisted the tournament should go ahead.

Several coaches and federations have backed calls to create a compensation fund for migrant workers’ families.

Denmark's squad will wear a black kit as a sign of “mourning” for those who died in Qatar.

Qatar has made long-standing promises that all visitors will be welcome “regardless of origin, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality.”

About 1.2 million international visitors are expected in Qatar during the tournament.

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