Robbie Williams calls out ‘hypocrisy’ over World Cup performance criticism

Prominent figures globally highlighted the double-standard approach in criticisng Qatar’s hosting of the major sporting event.

British superstar Robbie William has called out the “hypocrisy” in the criticism he has faced over his upcoming performance in Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Speaking to “Il Venerdì” magazine of “la Repubblica” newspaper on Friday, Williams said it would be “hypocritical” if he does not perform in Doha due to its human rights record.

“I don’t condone any abuses of human rights anywhere. But if we’re not condoning human rights abuses anywhere, then it would be the shortest tour the world has ever known. I wouldn’t even be able to perform in my own kitchen,” said Williams.

Williams is scheduled to perform in Qatar on 8 December at the Doha Golf Club, joining other global pop stars in celebrating the World Cup.

Several celebrities who have confirmed their participation in the festivities have faced similar backlash amid a wider western-led campaign against the first ever World Cup in the Arab world.

The criticism has mainly centered around Qatar’s human rights record as well as its stance on the LGBTQ+ community.

“Anybody leaving messages saying ‘no to Qatar’ are doing so on Chinese technology,” added Williams, calling out double standards in the criticism he has faced.

“I think that the hypocrisy there is that if we take that case in this place, we need to apply that unilaterally to the world. Then if we apply that unilaterally to the world, nobody can go anywhere,” he explained.

Anti-Qatar campaign

The British singer’s comments come as Qatar faces a campaign mainly driven by the west over its hosting of the World Cup.

Qatari officials as well as prominent figures from the Middle East and beyond have taken aim at the racism levelled at Qatar- the first ever Arab and Muslim nation to host the major event.

The wave of scrutiny has evolved over the years, going from criticising Doha’s geographically small size, hot climate and treatment of migrant workers, to all-out racist attacks.

Qatar has repeatedly responded by citing its efforts to reform its legislation to address the concerns, most notably the dismantling of the controversial kafala, or sponsorship, system. Under the system, employees were unable to freely switch jobs.

Commenting on the criticism on Saturday, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said that Europe should apologise for “what it has been doing for 3,000 years” instead of offering “moral lessons”.

“I am European. For what we have been doing for 3,000 years around the world, we should be apologising for the next 3,000 years before giving moral lessons,” the FIFA president told reporters in Doha on Saturday.

Infantino added that the “one-sided moral lesson is just hypocrisy” while questioning the silence on Qatar’s progress.

Addressing the discrimination, Infantino further stated, “Today I have strong feelings. Today I feel Qatari, I feel Arab, I feel African, I feel gay, I feel disabled, I feel a migrant worker”.

Last month, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said that “no other host nation” has faced this level of criticism.

The amir added that while the criticism has helped Qatar “develop aspects that needed development”, it has continued to rear its ugly head.

“It soon became clear to us that the campaign has continued and expanded, and includes slander and double standards, until it has reached such a ferocity that many, unfortunately, wonder about the real reasons and motives behind it,” said Sheikh Tamim.

On Saturday, Infantino spoke out on the lack of media coverage on the reforms Qatar has undergone and the media’s failure to bring attention to these developments.

“I wonder why nobody recognises the progress that has been made since 2016 [when Infantino became Fifa president]? The kafala system was abolished, minimum wages were introduced, heat protections were put in place,” he said. 

“ILO, unions acknowledged this, but media don’t, or some don’t,” referring to the International Labour Organization.

To further make his case on media hypocrisy, Infantino also looked at the topic of disabled population: “I was at an event a few days ago when we explained what we’re doing at this World Cup for disabled people,” Infantino said, adding that there were around 400 journalists at his press conference on Saturday, but just four at that previous event.

“There [are] one billion disabled people in the world,” he said. “One billion disabled people. Nobody cares.”

Speaking to Sky News earlier this month, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said critics of the World Cup in Qatar are “arrogant” and “cannot accept a small country from the Middle East”.

Similarly, Qatar 2022 CEO Nasser Al Khater said “European countries feel they have a monopoly over the World Cup.”

“Europe has hosted 11 tournaments out of 22 tournaments, of course it refuses that a country like Qatar or an Arab Muslim country hosts a tournament like the World Cup,” Al Khater told Al Jazeera Arabic in a televised interview earlier this month.

Addressing the scrutiny, Al Khater said the anti-Qatar campaign has evolved over the past decade, with aims taken at Qatar size as a geographically small country to its hot summer climate.

“From the start, we have said that this tournament represents all Arabs and is for the entire Arab world, this increases our excitement and our sense of responsibility and increases determination to make this tournament a success,” said Al Khater.

Qatar is due to kick off the Middle East’s first ever World Cup on Sunday.

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