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Australian soccer team denounce Qatar World Cup 'suffering'

October 27, 2022

The Socceroos spoke out against human rights abuses in Qatar in one of the most significant tournament protests to date.

Players of team Australia pose for a group picture during a friendly international football match between Australia and New Zealand at Eden Park in Auckland.
The players pushed for more reforms, including a migrant resource center, remedy for those denied rights and decriminalization of all same-sex relationshipsImage: Michael Bradley/AFP

The Australian national football team has called out World Cup host Qatar on its human rights record, becoming the first participating side to criticize the country collectively.

A video released on Thursday features 16 players from the Socceroos delivering a message line by line, referring to the Middle Eastern country's stand on same-sex relationships — which are illegal — and reports of harm to Qatar's more than 1.6 million migrant workers.

"We have learned that the decision to host the World Cup in Qatar has resulted in the suffering and the harm of countless of our fellow workers," midfielder Jackson Irvine said in the video.

"As players, we fully support the rights of LGBTI+ people, but in Qatar people are not free to love the person that they choose," fellow midfielder Denis Genreau added.

A statement from Football Australia also accompanied the video.

"We acknowledge the significant progress and legislative reforms have occurred in Qatar over recent years to recognize and protect the rights of workers, and we encourage all stakeholders to continue this path to reform," it said.

"However, we have also learned that the tournament has been associated with suffering for some migrant workers and their families and this cannot be ignored."

Football Australia also called on the conservative gulf state to take a softer stance towards same-sex marriage.

The players acknowledged reforms to date but pushed for more — including a migrant resource center, help for individuals who had been denied rights, and decriminalization of all same-sex relationships.

The World Cup — which starts on November 20 — has been mired in controversy ever since Qatar was given the rights 12 years ago.

The oil-rich nation has come under intense international pressure over its treatment of migrant workers and restrictive social laws.

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dvv/rc (AFP, Reuters)