There is less than a year left before the start of the World Cup, which was marked by a glamorous and star-studded ceremony in Doha on Sunday.
In addition to the entire World Cup management and Qatar officials, Fifa President Gianni Infantino was present.
So did former football icons Peter Schmeichel (58), Samuel Eto’o (40) and David Beckham (46), and pAccording to several media, the latter have concluded a very lucrative agreement to promote Qatar as a country before and during the championship.
NRK sports commentator Jan Petter Saltvedt believes these players are examples of a new type of mercenary in the world of football.
– These takes advantage of his waning fame to make money by shedding light on and legitimizing sporting events in regimes with very questionable human rights records, believes Saltvedt.
NRK was among the media that had access to the ceremony in Doha, but one thing quickly became clear:
These stars were expecting questions about soccernot human rights.
As NRK waited his turn to interview the former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, was the Dane in the middle of an interview with da Swedish journalist profiled Olof Lundh, who worked in Qatar for the Swedish channel TV4.
– I understood in the previous interview that you didn’t want to talk about the human rights situation in Qatar because you think the World Cup is not about politics. If it’s not about politics, why would Qatar host the World Cup?
– Do not ask me that, Schmeichel answers the first question of NRK.
– Don’t you think it’s a political motive?
– Why are you asking me?
– Because you say you don’t want to answer questions about the World Cup in Qatar and the rights of migrant workers?
– Don’t you give me the right that this is maintained at the political level, not on us footballers?
– But football is part of politics when the World Cup is put on here, and Qatar obviously wants him to show his country?
– Once again, I do not understand the question, because I am saying precisely that it is the politicians who must ensure the debate that you are trying to create before this football tournament. I relate to one thing, that’s football, that’s the only thing. I’m super happy that Denmark have qualified for the World Cup and I hope we have a fantastic tournament. I have some hope that Denmark can win the tournament as well, we are good enough for that. But I haven’t decided that the World Cup will be held here, for me the World Cup is a football tournament.
– Fifa awarded the World Cup to Qatar. We know that there have been numerous reports of human rights violations, migrant workers are dying, 15,000 of them from 2010 to 2019, doesn’t Fifa have a responsibility?
– You have to ask Fifa about it. But I don’t think Fifa has any responsibility that 15,000 people died, if that number is correct, Schmeichel says.
– But you, who are here now to shed light on this event, do you have a responsibility?
– The human rights situation here, migrant workers dying?
– Wait, it’s a football tournament. It has taken place in all kinds of countries on several occasions. Four years from now, will you be asking yourself the same critical questions?
– Yes, if human rights are violated in the United States, Canada and Mexico, we will ask the same questions, answers the NRK journalist.
See the rest of the interview NRK did with Schmeichel in Qatar here:
-Byou were offered immediate first aid
The figure of 15,000 dead to which NRK refers in the interview above, comes from a report published by Amnesty this fall.
The report covered deaths, lack of autopsies, lack of compensation and possible causes of death in Qatar over the past ten years.
Figures obtained by Amnesty show that a total of 15,000 foreign nationals died in Qatar between 2010 and 2019.
But various studies show that up to 70% of them are never autopsied.
NRK sports commentator Jan Petter Saltvedt saw the full interview with Schmeichel, as you can see in the video above.
He shakes his head at what he saw there.
– The only ones who say sports and politics don’t go together in 2021 are those who find it uncomfortable to be confronted with something they really want to hide or at least not talk about. Peter Schmeichel is obviously one of them, as the NRK interview shows very clearly, says one of them Saltvedt.
In particular, he reacts to a statement from the Danish football icon: “For me, the World Cup is a football tournament.”
– It’s a statement that puts his head so far into the desert sand that he should have mostly received immediate first aid and is a long way from the position of Danish football’s increasingly strong defenders, says Saltvedt.
At first Eto’o did not speak
In Qatar, NRK also had the opportunity to interview former top scorer Samuel Eto’o.
Eto’o was long considered one of the best players in the world when he played for Barcelona, but has now reached the age of 40 and has been given the role of World Cup ambassador in 2022.
The Cameroonian immediately pointed out that he could answer certain questions, but then in French.
– But can we ask the questions in English? NRK asks.
– Yes, but what questions about the event here?
– No, I would like to ask you some questions about the Amnesty report.
– No, you can’t, he answers. Eto’o.
– Why not, you are an ambassador of the World Cup and you absolutely have to answer?
Then a press secretary tries to guide him further, but he changes his mind and chooses to do a short interview anyway.
– I’m fine, let me answer, said Eto’o to press officer.
As soon as the interview begins, it quickly becomes clear that he does not understand why NRK and other parts of the press are highlighting the human rights situation in Qatar.
– It’s quite funny that this world works as it always works. I believe that at some point you have to look at all the efforts that this country has made to make great progress, things that are not happening in the rest of the world, he begins.
– Maybe you should look at what other countries are doing in Africa. So maybe you can report and ask these countries to stop doing things on our African continent. And you might be kind enough to look into these questions. I was born on the African continent. We see everything that happens there. And you rarely lift a finger to report on what is happening on our continent, he says.
– I had the pleasure of living in this wonderful country, Qatar. And I have to say that you have to live here before you can express yourself, you have to know what you’re talking about. And sometimes it even feels like it’s not quite serious, what some people bring, says Eto’o.
Here you can see the interview:
– Uses star status
Saltvedt is not impressed with what is said by the Cameroonian.
– He uses the tactic of diverting attention from what it is really about by referring to everything else that is not as it should be in the world, especially on the African continent. The significant difference here is that none of the other countries will host the World Cup next year or pay former football stars to walk around like some sort of belly-talking wooden doll, says the sports commentator of NRK.
The World Cup is played in Qatar from November 21 to December 18, 2022.
Amnesty recently published a new report documenting that the human rights situation, after seeing some progress in recent years, has now stagnated and old abusive practices have reappeared.
To the World Cup official page it seems that Beckham & co. isn’t the only ambassador for the controversial tournament. Former stars such as Tim Cahill, Cafu, Xavi Hernández, Ali Al-Habsi and Ronald de Boer have also accepted such roles.
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