Qatar World Cup chief lambasts Jurgen Klinsmann over racist comments

Hassan Al-Thawadi accused Jurgen Klinsmann of making “racist comments” about the Iranian football team.

Qatar World Cup chief Hassan Al-Thawadi has accused BBC pundit Jurgen Klinsmann of making prejudiced remarks on Iran, adding that the BBC has an “agenda” against Doha.

The World Cup’s chief organiser described Klinsmann’s depiction of Iran’s performance against Wales as “racist”.

“The Iran vs Wales game. Iran played very good. They were the better team,” Al-Thawadi told talkSPORT.

“And yet the coverage that we saw on BBC by Jurgen Klinsmann talking about their culture and reflecting the players in a way that was…. I don’t like using the word, I will use it only once because I don’t want to give power to the word, it was very elitist, orientalist and racist to a certain extent,” Al-Thawadi said.

“I’ll say it this way: you look at what is happening, and you say it is part of their culture, what do you mean by that?” he went on to ask.

“Are you saying it was misunderstood? He was representing a culture in a negative way.”

Klinsmann, a former Germany forward who garnered a reputation for frequently diving on the pitch, took aim at Iranian players during a post-match analysis on the BBC.

Klinsmann alleged that it was in the Iranian players’ “culture” to “work the referee”. His comments went unchallenged by the BBC presenter.

Al-Thawadi also hit out at the BBC and its sports presenter Lineker, who criticised host nation Qatar during the start of the World Cup last Sunday.

The BBC had snubbed the opening ceremony and instead broadcasted a dull monologue by Lineker criticising Qatar over alleged corruption and human rights abuses. The report came while the opening ceremony itself delivered a message of peace and unity, and displayed the beauty of sports.

Al-Thawadi said that tournament officials in Qatar have reached out to Lineker, but the latter has refused to engage with them.

“At least hear us out. If you don’t agree then, that’s fine, that’s your decision, and that’s your judgement. But we never got the chance,” he said.

“I was disappointed there was never the desire to listen to our part of the story,” Al-Thawadi added.

“The most important element about this is breaking down misconceptions and stereotypes that people have – which means they need to engage,” he said.

“There are definitely agendas that are presented very clearly that are beyond football. I want it to be about football and the fans.”

The BBC’s refusal to air the opening ceremony was met with hundreds of complaints from viewers, who cited an “inappropriate or overly critical coverage of Qatar”. 

Doha has been under relentless scrutiny, mainly from the West, over its stance on the LGBTQ+ community and alleged mistreatment of migrant workers. The criticism, which failed to note Qatar’s major reform on migrant workers’ rights, has been slammed as “racist” by officials from the Gulf country and beyond.

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