Berlin (AFP) – Real Madrid and Germany midfielder Toni Kroos said Wednesday “it was not a good thing” that the 2022 World Cup is taking place in Qatar as the German national team again protested conditions in the Gulf state for the third straight qualification match.
“I think the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar was not a good thing for several reasons,” said Kroos in his podcast ‘Einfach mal Luppen’ (Just lob it), which he co-hosts with his brother Felix.
“The first reason is the conditions of the workers… then the fact that homosexuality is penalised and punished in Qatar… and also that it is not a football country,” added the 31-year-old midfielder.
“Many workers work without a break, in temperatures that can reach 50 degrees (Celsius).
“They sometimes suffer from a lack of food or drinking water, which is madness in those temperatures.
“They have no medical coverage and there is a certain amount of violence against these workers.
“These are points which are completely unacceptable.”
On Wednesday, the German national team unveiled a banner reading “Wir sind 30!” (We are 30) in black-red-gold lettering, referring to the United Nations’ 30-point declaration of Human Rights before playing North Macedonia.
The protest was applauded by Fritz Keller, the president of the German Football Association, who was watching from the stands in Duisburg.
It was the third straight World Cup qualifier where the Germans protested with Kroos absent as he recovers from a groin injury.
Before Sunday’s 1-0 away win over Romania, the Germans briefly reversed their shirts, with each playing number referring to one of the Human Rights.
Last Thursday, the German team revealed T-shirts which spelt out “Human Rights” before their 3-0 win over Iceland.
The Netherlands, Belgium and Norway have also all protested by wearing T-shirts with messages such as “Human Rights” or “Football supports change” before World Cup qualifiers over the last week.
Several players confirmed the protests were aimed at Qatar.
Qatar has faced criticisms for its treatment of migrant workers, many of whom are involved in preparations for the 2022 World Cup, with campaigners accusing employers of exploitation and forcing labourers to work in dangerous conditions.
Qatari authorities insist they have done more than any country in the region to improve worker welfare.
“Qatar fully supports footballers and football associations using their platforms to promote human rights,” a Qatari official told AFP on Wednesday.
“Their criticisms around the 2022 World Cup however are misplaced.
“Qatar has made tangible progress on labour reform and shown its commitment to continuing the process in cooperation with its international partners.
“Qatar’s progress has been recognised by the International Labour Organisation, trade unions and NGOs.”
Kroos, who helped Germany win the 2014 World Cup, said footballers should use their platform to call for change in Qatar.
“The visibility of the World Cup may draw even more attention to these problems” and “a boycott would probably not change much about the situation for the workers there”, Kroos added.