The president of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet, has acknowledged the existence of “an excessive campaign” against Qatar and its hosting of the World Cup this year, hitting back at a series of attacks against the Gulf State.
In an interview with the French radio channel, RTL, Le Graet addressed concerns over Qatar’s political and human rights record, saying “I believe this country is what it is. I look at the football side. It is up to the politicians to do their job.”
He highlighted the economic partnership between Paris and Doha, as “the two governments get along not so badly”, also using the Qatari businessman, Nasser bin Ghanim Al-Khelaifi’s ownership of French football club, Paris Saint-Germain, as an example of cooperation.
So far, he said, the World Cup in Qatar has been a success and lived up to the games’ popularity, citing as proof the fact that the television viewership record “was beaten on Tuesday evening; the bistros and cafes were full everywhere”.
Le Graet also mentioned the issue of the ‘one love’ armbands – featuring a rainbow in support of the LGBT community – which European football teams vowed to wear, before deciding not to, with the president himself not being in favour of that armband. “It’s not that I’m not in favour of this armband, but sometimes I think we want to lecture others so much that we should also look at what’s happening in our country.”
Leading up to the launch of this year’s World Cup and, even currently, there has been a barrage of criticism against Qatar as the host nation, from governments and organisations alike, pointing out the illegality of homosexuality, the violation of many workers’ rights, and the limit of public alcohol consumption as reasons why it should not host the games.
Many have hit back at those criticisms, however, calling them a concerted campaign to discriminate against the Gulf nation and prevent an Arab or Muslim-majority nation from hosting international games of such popularity.
Le Graet’s call to leave politics out of the World Cup echoes the urge by FIFA’s President, Gianni Infantino, for countries to “focus on the football”.