Gary Lineker opened the BBC’s coverage of the Qatar World Cup with a damning critique of the country’s human rights record and the legitimacy of holding the tournament in the middle-east.
Qatar was awarded the tournament in 2010 under much criticism and the competition is being played in winter for the first time, with summer temperatures in the gulf state too high for players to play in.
The country is three times smaller than Northern Ireland and reports claim thousands of migrant workers were killed during the building of the stadia, which didn’t exist a decade ago.
Qatar deny this but they cannot deny their treatment of women and the LGBTQ+ community.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino asked the world to ‘focus on the football’ on the eve of the tournament.
But, in his opening monologue for the BBC’s coverage of the tournament, Lineker vowed to tackle the wider issues of holding the tournament in Qatar.
‘It’s the most controversial World Cup in history and a ball hasn’t even been kicked,’ said Lineker.
‘From accusations of corruption in the bidding process to the treatment of migrant workers who built the stadiums where many lost their lives.
‘Homosexuality is illegal here, women’s rights and freedom of expression are in the spotlight. Also the decision six years ago to switch the World Cup from summer to winter.
‘Against that backdrop there’s a tournament to be played, one that will be watched and enjoyed around the world. Stick to football say FIFA, well, we will, for a couple of minutes at least.’
When Lineker suggested the decision to award the World Cup to Qatar ‘felt wrong’, pundit Alan Shearer agreed and responded: ‘Every country has its own issues, including our own, and we’re not saying we’re perfect, we’re far from it.‘We were there in 2010 and we were as surprised as anyone. First of all it was announced it was a summer World Cup with airconditioned stadiums, airconditioned fan areas.‘
‘And then all of a sudden six years later it’s then turned into a winter World Cup. Three months ago it’s then announced the first game of the tournament is moved from Monday to today [Sunday].
‘And 11 of those 22 members who had that vote for FIFA have either been sanctioned, fined or banned for life from football. Even Sepp Blatter has said it was a mistake. So that’s where we are with this World Cup.’
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