‘The dogs bark, but the caravan goes on’: AFC head claps back at Qatar critics

The AFC’s chief Sheikh Salman Al-Khalifa hit back at the campaign targeting Qatar with a famous Arab proverb.

The Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) head clapped back at ongoing criticism over Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the first to ever take place in the Arab world.

On Thursday, the AFC’s chief Sheikh Salman Al-Khalifa, also a member of Bahrain’s ruling family, hit back at the campaign targeting Qatar with a famous Arab proverb: “the dogs bark but the caravan moves on.”

However, Al-Khalifa only told the press the second part of the proverb, asking them to complete the rest. The famous Arabic saying is commonly used when describing one’s ability in continuing to power through criticism. 

The official said “the organisation is luminous, the environment is positive”, as quoted by AFP.

“Our (Qatari) brothers didn’t fail in delivering the facilities and stadiums and I believe it will be one of the most successful tournaments,” he added.

The AFC is the latest to express its solidarity with Qatar as it continuously faces criticism for its human rights record, with many pointing to the scrutiny’s underlying racist motives.

Since gaining the right to host the World Cup in 2010, Qatar has come under increased international criticism alleged on human rights and LGBT issues. 

Officials both in Qatar and globally pointed to the “unprecedented” criticism the country has faced that also appeared to be more intense than those other host nations received.

Qatar has repeatedly responded by citing its efforts to reform its legislation to address the concerns. Among the most important steps was the dismantling of the controversial kafala, or sponsorship, system. 

The Gulf state also insisted that everyone is welcome to the World Cup to enjoy the beauty of sports.

Four days after the kick off date, Noël Le Graet, the President of the French Football Federation, said he “was surprised by the political aspect that printed this campaign” targeting Qatar.

“And in fact, I only follow football while I leave politics to the people of competence,” said the French football official, as quoted by beIN Sports on Thursday.

He stressed that Qatar was ready to host the major tournament even before the kick-off date by at least “five months”.

“Despite this, there are still those who question Qatar’s capabilities to organize the World Cup. I see the exact opposite and I think they are ready,” said Le Graet.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised Qatar’s “meaningful strides” in addressing labour rights.

“Real work remains on these issues, and the United States will continue to work with Qatar on strengthening labor rights and human rights more broadly long after the World Cup is over,” Blinken told the press in Doha.

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