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Qatar World Cup official to ESPN: Israelis can attend the 2022 tournament

DECEMBER 31, 2019

Lusail stadium - a modern indoor sports arena in Lusail. Qatar, Middle East (Photo: Philip Lange /

Qatar's Hassan al-Thawadi, secretary-general of the Supreme Committee for the Qatar World Cup in 2022, stated in an interview with ESPN earlier this week that Israelis will be welcome to attend the coveted soccer event in their country.

"Everyone is welcome," he told ESPN. "We do not mix sport and politics, but we would hope that Palestinians are able to make it too."

In contrast to unrequited fears, Thawadi had stated in 2017 that Israeli fans would be welcome into the country for the 2022 tournament, regardless of the absence of diplomatic ties between the two governments.

But the Israeli NGO StandWithUs is hesitant to accept the olive branch extended by Thawadi to the Israeli public.

"[StandWithUs] cautiously welcomes comments by Hassan al-Thawadi, the secretary general of the Supreme Committee for the Qatar 2022 Soccer World Cup," the NGO stated. "StandWithUs has repeatedly called upon FIFA, the international football/soccer association, to ensure that the Qatari government will issue entry visas to Israeli fans wishing to attend the FIFA World Cup to be held in Qatar in 2022. To date, Israel is not included in Qatar’s online list of nearly 250 nationalities and territories eligible for an entry visa."

"Like most Arab states (with the exceptions of Egypt and Jordan that have peace treaties with Israel), Qatar does not recognize Israel and bans Israelis from entering."

FIFA’s code of ethics specifically prohibits the discrimination of nations and banning people based upon their country of origin.

Article 22 of the code states that “offend[ing] the dignity or integrity of a country, private person or group of people through contemptuous, discriminatory or denigratory words or actions on account of race, skin color, ethnicity, nationality, social origin, gender, disability, language, religion, political opinion or any other opinion, wealth, birth or any other status, sexual orientation or any other reason” is strictly prohibited.

“While we welcome Hassan al-Thawadi’s comments, we will be watching this issue closely," StandWithUs-Israel executive director Michael Dickson said. "There have been major issues raised regarding Qatar hosting World Cup 2022 in light of their support for terror organizations including Hamas, their use of slave labor and their attitude towards the LGBTQ community. These are all legitimate concerns, as is the issue of fans from the world’s only Jewish country being banned from attending the tournament.

"Many World Cup sponsors will be watching carefully to see that Qatar complies with the values that FIFA purports the championship to stand for. We expect Israeli fans – together with all others – to be able to attend and enjoy the World Cup in safety.”

The main issue has been the emerging conflict between the Qatari administration and the FIFA code of ethics, since there are many laws, practices and views that Qatar participates in, which contrast with FIFA's morality.

According to The Independent, there have been claims that the Qatari workers completing the 2022 World Cup stadium in Doha are actually indentured slaves. There are also fears that the LGBTQ community will not be allowed into the country or risk facing scrutiny due to the overall view of the conservative nation, as well as human rights violations against the women of their country – including restrictions on female travel.

"We are a conservative people, and we ask visitors to appreciate our culture while at the same time accepting our hospitality," Thawadi told ESPN, speaking about homosexual fans visiting the country – where homosexuality is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

"Open displays of affection are not part of our culture, and we ask that people don't [openly display affection]. We are not saying, 'Don't come and be yourself,' but it's always important to be open-minded and not focus on what's restrictive. You are focusing on the negative," he concluded.

In addition to questions surrounding human rights and equality, guardianship laws in Qatar state that female citizens under the age of 25 can only travel abroad with male parental consent, according to the Qatari Interior Ministry’s website. These measures restrict women who may need to travel abroad out of necessity, and for such things as education, to visit relatives and for medical needs.

Additionally, the Saudi news agency Al Arabiya states that Qatari men can – and do – apply to Qatari courts in order to prevent their wives from traveling abroad and even around the country.

“Married women are entitled to travel irrespective of their age.” the Interior Ministry’s website states. “[However], in case the husband doesn’t want her to travel, he has to approach the competent court to prevent her journey.”

The same rules do not apply to men. According to the website, men are allowed to travel freely once they reach the legal age of 18.

“No permission is required for those who are 18 years old or more, as they have reached legal age.”

Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of the London-based Cornerstone Global Associates, claims that current sponsors of the 2022 tournament might be inadvertently promoting ethical values that they themselves to not publicly stand for – big name sponsors such as Coca Cola, Adidas, Hyundai-KIA, Visa, Wanda Group, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Vivo.

There is a possibility that these companies might pull out as sponsors of the competition in order to maintain their public image. Even though FIFA maintains a strict code of ethics aimed at promoting all around equality, the laws of the host country are questionable in this field.

“We call upon FIFA to uphold their Code of Ethics, which is premised on protecting international football from ‘illegal, immoral or unethical’ practices," Roz Rothstein CEO and Co-Founder of StandWithUs concluded. "If Qatar is allowed to ban fans on the basis of national origin, this would be a clear violation of FIFA’s guidelines.”


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