Lianne Sanderson has opened up on her many experiences in Qatar and declared: ‘If you respect the culture, they respect you back’.
FIFA have been criticised for allowing the World Cup to take place in the Gulf nation, due to their views on same-sex relationships as well as the treatment of migrant workers.
Meanwhile, England captain Harry Kane and eight other European skipper’s including Wales’ Gareth Bale will wear ‘OneLove’ armbands during the World Cup to show their support against discrimination.
Not happy with criticism aimed at Qatar, FIFA president Gianni Infantino delivered an incredible monologue on Saturday morning where he slammed the Western world over its ‘hypocrisy’ of its reporting about the country’s human rights record.
And ex-Lionnesses star Sanderson, who is part of the talkSPORT team working out in Qatar, has come to the defence of the country.
Discussing her experiences in Qatar, she said: “I’ve been here about six or seven times, I’ve always been treated magnificently well over the last five or six years.
“I love being here. There are a lot of people [who are negative], I’m probably one of the only people that genuinely has a lot of positive things to say. There’s some negative things like everything, but I’ve been treated [well].
“Just when I came out of the hotel earlier, there was a family waiting for me outside the hotel, fully in their Qatari attire, and the little kid was waiting to meet me – these are the stories you don’t hear about.
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“When I came last time, they opened up the stadium for me to do a [football] camp with 200 women from all different walks of life.
“You don’t hear about those types of things. So, for me, I’m just trying to drown out all the negativity because I think there’s been too much of it.
“Every country has its negatives, but I just think, for me, I wouldn’t have come somewhere if I felt like I was going to be in danger. And if I did feel in danger, I would have got the first flight out of here.
“I’ve only been here at the World Cup for a day so far, but I’ve been here six or seven times and I’ve been out here on my own before.
“I’ve gone around the Souq, people come up to me with their kids, touch my hair, and I feel genuinely safe when I’m here.
“I can only speak from my experience, people can say what they want about that, but that’s how I feel, and being someone like myself from the LGBTQ+ community, obviously there has been a lot of people questioning why I would come here.
“But I think seeing is believing and I think for me to have not come, I’m on one of the major – along with talkSPORT – biggest outlets in the Arabic world with beIN Sports as well.
“There’s nobody that looks like me on that channel and I think that visibility is everything and hopefully people can see that you can look like me and achieve a lot in life.”
She added: “I think if you respect the culture, they respect you back.”
Sanderson also weighed in on Qatar forcing FIFA into a U-turn to stop beer from being sold at the World Cup venues.
Arsenal legend Martin Keown told talkSPORT this week how having a ‘dry and sober World Cup could be a good thing for all of us’, and ex-Gunners ace Sanderson slammed the fan outrage on the matter.
The former Juventus forward stated: “If you can’t go to a football match and enjoy it without being absolutely battered, then you probably shouldn’t be coming.
“For people to say it’s ruined their whole tournament, I do think it’s quite strange, because you can drink in hotels.
“Some hotels are dry, but people are acting like you can’t drink anywhere – you can.”
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