The German Football Association (DFB) is opposed to boycotting the 2022 World Cup but will get behind the national football team in pledging support for the rights of migrant workers in Qatar, the governing body’s president Fritz Keller said on Friday.
Germany lined up before kickoff in its opening World Cup qualifier against Iceland in Duisburg on Thursday wearing shirts displaying the message “HUMAN RIGHTS.”
Norway staged a similar protest on Wednesday ahead of its match in Gibraltar when its players wore T-shirts with the message: “Human rights, on and off the pitch.”
The initiatives come in the wake of a report by British newspaper The Guardian that said its calculations showed at least 6,500 migrant workers had died in Qatar since the country won the right to stage the 2022 World Cup 10 years ago.
Norwegian top-flight club Tromso had asked its country’s football federation to consider boycotting the World Cup after The Guardian published its report but Keller is against such a move.
“Qatar has initiated several reforms, and there has been visible progress made - although there is still a ways to go - which a boycott could potentially undo,” he said in an interview published on the DFB’s official website.
“I would have hoped to push for concrete changes, and to have those implemented before awarding the World Cup to a country like Qatar, where there are several things that still need to change,” Keller added.
“Instead, Qatar were awarded the World Cup as a kind of leap of faith, in the hope that it would help bring improvements.”
Belgium manager Roberto Martinez told CNN earlier on Friday it would be a “big mistake” to boycott the finals.
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The DFB echoed the German government position earlier on Friday when a spokesman told reporters “the national team is a good part of Germany and therefore it is good when they commit to the values of our liberal democracy.”
Keller added: “We must stand up for our values, which are written in our statutes, and let our voices be heard at all times. If someone cannot rally behind a statement for human rights, they urgently need to realign their morals. Every player dreams of being able play for their country in a World Cup from a young age but at the same time, of course, they know that you don't play with human rights.
“They are non-negotiable and universally applicable, all over the world. This is what the national players have drawn attention to.”
On Thursday, a representative of the Qatari World Cup organisers said they had “always been transparent about the health and safety of workers.”
“Since construction (of stadiums) began in 2014, there have been three work-related fatalities and 35 non-work-related deaths,” the representative added.
“The SC has investigated each case, learning lessons to avoid any repeat in the future.”
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