David Beckham responds to criticism over Qatar World Cup deal from comedian Joe Lycett
David Beckham has said he understands there are "different and strongly held views about engagement in the Middle East" after being criticised by comedian Joe Lycett.
A spokesperson for the former footballer, 47, who has struck a deal with World Cup host Qatar, said he sees it as "positive" that debate about "key issues" has been "stimulated" by the contest being held in the country.
In a special edition of Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back - which aired on Channel 4 on Thursday - Lycett read out the statement in full.
It read: "David has been involved in a number of World Cups and other major international tournaments both as a player and an ambassador and he’s always believed that sport has the power to be a force for good in the world.
"Football, the most popular sport globally, has a genuine ability to bring people together and make a real contribution to communities.
"We understand that there are different and strongly held views about engagement in the Middle East but see it as positive that debate about the key issues has been stimulated directly by the first World Cup being held in the region.
"We hope that these conversations will lead to greater understanding and empathy towards all people and that progress will be achieved."
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Last month, in a video posted to social media, Lycett issued Beckham with an ultimatum after it was reported he had signed a £10 million deal with the FIFA World Cup hosts.
The comic requested Beckham end his deal with Qatar before the World Cup opening ceremony or he would shred £10,000 of his own money.
Lycett later released a video in which he said Beckham had failed to respond and appeared to show him shredding the cash.
But he eventually revealed it was a hoax and he had already donated the money to LGBTQ+ charities.
During Joe Lycett Vs David Beckham: A Got Your Back Special, the comedian also spoke to Naser Mohamed, who claims to be the first and only openly gay Qatari.
Mohamed told Lycett: "I was cut off by my family and the few friends I have can’t publicly be my friends."
He added: "I know that the LGBT issues in Qatar are awful, I know that they’re life-threatening."
Moreover, Mohamed claimed he was blocked by Beckham’s Instagram account after he "tagged him" in a post to say "this is what is happening" in relation to Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ+ stance.
Elsewhere, in the programme Lycett took aim at McDonald’s and Budweiser, who have both sponsored the tournament, but said they had declined to comment.