Dutch players to meet migrant workers in Qatar during World Cup

The Netherlands has been highly critical of Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup.

The Dutch football federation has organised for the national team to meet a group of migrant workers in Qatar following a training session before the team’s opening World Cup game.

The Royal Dutch Soccer Association, KNVB, announced the plan on Thursday night, reports said.

“First of all, we are going to Qatar to become world champions, but of course we look beyond football,” coach Louis van Gaal said in a written statement.

He said that, as a team, “we find it important to meet the people involved. We therefore invite them to our training to give them a nice memory as well.”

During a news conference on Friday to introduce his World Cup squad, Van Gaal acknowledged that the encounter between the Dutch players and the migrant labourers was “contrived, because normally that wouldn’t happen”.

However, he jumped to defend the meeting saying: “The fact we want to do it says something about the thoughts of the KNVB and that’s what it’s about.”

This comes as an agreement was set in motion to send a Dutch delegation to the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar despite a parliamentary resolution against the move over concerns on the Gulf state’s treatment of migrant workers.

Since winning the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup back in 2010, Qatar has come under incessant Western-heavy criticism over its human rights abuses, prompting senior Qatari officials to speak out.

In the lead up to the World Cup, a number of European nations, including England and Denmark, have raised issues over the plight of migrant workers in the host country, triggering calls to compensate employees.

The #PayUpFIFA campaign is a collective appeal by human rights groups for FIFA to match the tournament’s $440 million in prize money with compensation for migrant workers.

FIFA stated at the time that it was evaluating the campaign, and that as of December 2021, workers had received compensation payments totalling $22.6 million, with an additional $5.7 million pledged by contractors.

Commenting on the campaign, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said “the fund already exists and has proven its value”, noting Qatar has disbursed $350 million last year alone.

“This money went to employees who were deprived of their wages and whose companies are now facing court cases, to employees who were injured at work or to cases of work-related deaths. This mechanism works very well. So why should we duplicate it?” he said.

‘Never in favour of Qatar hosting’

Earlier this year, the head coach of the Netherlands national football team accused FIFA of taking the tournament to Qatar for “money” and “commercial” purposes and that is “the only thing that matters to FIFA.”

Louis van Gaal, also the Dutch association football manager, said that it is “ridiculous” that the FIFA World Cup 2022 is being unravelled in the Gulf country.

KNVB has “always” been critical of the labour rights and working conditions in Qatar, however it was especially underlined in 2021.

In a statement last year following a visit to the host country, the football entity said it had “never been in favour of holding the World Cup in Qatar and of course certainly doesn’t approve of the way in which migrant workers are treated there”.

However, these remarks were followed by an inspection visit of a delegation from the KNVB to Qatar in February, where the team praised Qatar’s World Cup 2022 facilities and felt “positive” upon returning from their trip back to Netherlands.

During their visit, the Dutch members approved the St. Regis Hotel in Doha as an accommodation for their football team, in addition to two football fields at Qatar University as their designated training venues.

“We were there to assess and make decisions about the facilities for our players, their staff, our fans, our partners, and our employees. The enabling conditions must be optimal; with top priority given to the team’s hotel and training accommodation, guest house, training facilities, catering, and logistics.”

Last year, the Dutch football federation told Doha News it was never in favour of the Qatari bid for the 2022 edition of the World Cup due to its “lack of football history and harsh temperatures”.

Responding to the statement at the time, Simon Chadwick, Professor of Sport and Geopolitical Economy at SKEMA Business School in Paris, told Doha News that the tides are changing.

“World Cups have historically been staged in Europe or South America, yet increasingly westerners are faced with the inconvenient truth that the world is pivoting towards the global south. Criticism of Qatar therefore appears to be emblematic of anxieties felt by the west, as this pivot takes place.”

Meanwhile, Dutch companies made millions of euros through building projects for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, despite a barrage of criticism from the Netherlands against host country Qatar.

‘Racism against first Arab World Cup’

Qatar has responded to the criticism over the last decade with a wave of reforms designed to better conditions for migrant workers in the country, in what officials have described as a targeted campaign rooted in racism against the first World Cup in the Arab world.

Officials say much of the criticism and campaigns to boycott the event largely overlooks efforts made by Qatar to address such concerns, including widespread labour reforms.

Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani as well as other top Qatari officials have repeatedly slammed the “racism” behind the campaigns, especially since they have continued to emerge despite Qatar addressing concerns and launching major reforms.

Last month, the amir described the campaigns as “ferocious” and “malicious” and questioned intentions behind the criticism.

Echoing similar sentiments, Sheikh Mohammed also cited racism.

Speaking to Le Monde, the Qatari diplomat said he came across recent commentary that accused Qatar of not being “intellectually and culturally ready” to host the World Cup.

“Is such racism acceptable in Europe in the 21st century? Football belongs to everyone. It is not reserved for a club of elites. Four hundred and fifty million Arabs are delighted that the World Cup is finally being held in their region,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

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