Calls to boycott Qatar World Cup grow as Denmark plans tourney pull out


A petition in Denmark’s parliament against the country’s participation in the 2022 Qatar World Cup intensifies further a backlash against the tournament being held in the Gulf state.

The last few months have seen the most concerted calls for a boycott and have only increased in the past few days since a report in The Guardian that 6,500 Asian workers have died in Qatar since 2010.

Casper Fischer, together with five co-sponsors, petitioned Denmark’s parliament to get the country’s national football team to boycott the World Cup finals being held in Qatar next year.

Mr. Fischer said Denmark should forsake playing in the tournament in protest at the poor human rights’ conditions in the Gulf host nation, as well as FIFA corruption.

“We do not believe that we, as a democratic nation striving to live up to global human rights, can benefit from having some of the country’s most prominent sporting players participate in the finals and blue-stamp a dictatorship like Qatar,” states the petition.

If Mr. Fischer manages to get 50,000 signatures by June 8 then, under Danish law, the country’s participation in the Qatar 2022 World Cup will have to be debated in the national parliament.

But even if he fails, the petition seems to have galvanised debate about participation in 2022, especially in Denmark, but also beyond. To date, almost 7,000 have signed

“I’d be more surprised if we reach the 50,000 than if we don’t,” Mr. Fischer tells The Independent. “The 50,000 signatures was not the aim in itself. The aim was to shed light on how problematic it is that the second biggest sport event in the world is being held in Qatar.”

One Danish MP, Karsten Honge of the Socialist People’s Party, has backed the need for any parliamentary debate regardless of a petition, claiming it would allow Denmark’s point of view to be “seen and heard” in Qatar.

Even if there was no boycott, a parliamentary debate would “put maximum pressure on Qatar to improve human rights and workers’ rights”, Honge tells The Independent.

And the bank which sponsors the Danish team’s training gear, Arbejdernes Landsbank, says it does not want to be associated with the tournament.

“The World Cup in Qatar is a problem,” Peter Froulund, head of branding and communication at the bank says. “We have to decide what is the best way to approach this.”

The Danish Football Union has said it supports “a dialogue” with Qatar, rather than backing a boycott, unless that boycott extends to “business and diplomacy”, says the DFU’s Jakob Hoyer.

And talk of a boycott has in recent days extended to several top flight league clubs in Norway, including Tromso, who have openly called for the national team to not take part in the tournament.

Since it was controversially and surprisingly handed the right to host the World Cup back in 2010, Qatar has come intense scrutiny, especially on human rights, and faced many calls in the West to have the tournament taken away.

The Gulf monarchy has embarked upon an unprecedented building programme in readiness for 2022.

Eight stadiums are being built from scratch or revamped for the tournament, dozens of news roads, a new metro system, airport, hotels and even a brand new city will be constructed in time for the World Cup.

Qatar has pointed to labour reforms already made – including ending the exploitative ‘kafala’ system, where workers could not change jobs without employers’ consent – and the promise of more changes in the pipeline.

But it has not been enough to silence critics and in the two days following the publication of the Guardian death story, Mr Fischer says the petition got 700 more signatures. (Source: The Independent)