A media officer for the Qatar FIFA World Cup organising committee had to step in to halt an interview between World Cup ambassador and former footballer Khalid Salman and German broadcaster ZDF as the ambassador described homosexuality as “damage in the mind”.
Salman was a Qatari football player in the 1980s and 1990s. The ambassador called homosexuality “haram” meaning forbidden by the Islamic law and revealed that homosexuality is illegal in Qatar. He added that tourists will be accepted in Qatar, but must abide by the rules of the country. He added that he was concerned about children learning “something that is not good.”
Salman’s comments added fuel to the fire of the criticism Qatar has already faced due to human rights issues in the nation and of its treatment of foreign workers. The government, however, has denied the claims
Former football star David Beckham was also caught amidst the controversy, and faced harsh criticism by human rights campaigners for praising Qatar as "perfection" in its tourism videos.
Beckham appeared in a series of videos on Qatar Tourism’s website where he is seen visiting desert camps and trying local food – essentially all the things you’d expect a tourism video to contain. Unfortunately, his delivery on the line “This is perfection for me” has railed up many human rights activists.
The video saw Amnesty International calling out the former star athlete for failing to acknowledge the abuses by helping the country rake in tourism dollars. The London-based company called out Beckham for making "no mention of the country's appalling human rights record", according to several media reports. This isn’t the first time the former England captain faced criticism for his partnership with Qatar Tourism. Last year, he reportedly signed a deal worth US$172 million to promote the state and donned the title of cultural ambassador.
This prompted Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s CEO, saying in October 2021 that the group urges him to learn about the deeply concerning human rights situation in Qatar and be prepared to speak out about it.
Nonetheless, despite the controversies, the World Cup is expected to top the roughly US$5.4 billion in revenue that the 2018 World Cup in Russia generated for the governing body, said a report on Bloomberg, citing sources. The article detailed that marketing sales for its 2019 to 2022 cycle is expected to exceed a budgeted figure of about US$1.8 billion. It added that FIFA sold nearly three million tickets for the event, and pre-sold broadcasting rights with around 240,000 hospitality packages.
FIFA operates in a four-year cycle and the vast majority (around 95%) of the organisation’s revenues come from the sale of television, marketing, hospitality and licensing rights related to the FIFA World Cup. Meanwhile, the majority of FIFA’s expenditure is spent on football development around the world. Total revenue for the 2015 to 2018 four-year cycle was budgeted at US$ 5,656 million; total investment dedicated to the FIFA Forward Development Programme (introduced mid-2016) in the same cycle amounted to US$ 1,079 million.
Meanwhile, according to media intelligence company CARMA, these were some of the trending topics in the media include:
- Sponsor promotions: Mainstream interest lies in promoting Qatar Airways’ entertainment package, while netizens discussed Lionel Messi’s influence on the fastest-selling tickets.
- Social & Political: Qatar's democracy is labeled as a constitutional monarchy on social media; mainstream media highlights security aid sent from neighboring countries.
- Infrastructure: News on the Pakistani army guarding sport’s venues sparked criticism on mainstream media; social users demand bigger stadiums for fan meets.
- Investment: Qatar was labeled progressive, innovative, and a leader in the investment space amidst controversial human rights claims.
- Human: Qatar’s human rights violations, anti-LGBTQ laws, and statements by World Cup ambassador, sparked criticism on mainstream media.
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