The countdown for the FIFA 2022 World Cup continues to draw nearer and nearer and while the excitement is building up, there is controversy in equal amounts as well. Competition hosts Qatar are not the most liberal country around and many are prepared for what could be the most socially awkward edition of the competition.
In the latest news making the round, FIFA’s officials have urged the 32 participating teams to focus on the game in Qatar and avoid focusing on the morality surrounding the tournament.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino and secretary general Fatma Samoura sent out a letter urging teams to “let football be the order of the day” ahead of intense media focus on coaches and players when World Cup squads are announced next week.
"Please, let´s now focus on the football!" Infantino and Samoura wrote, asking the 32 partaking countries to "not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists."
Many have frowned on FIFA’s choice of Qatar as host nation since it was announced in 2010, amid scrutiny on the Middle East nation’s treatment of low-paid migrant workers needed to build projects costing tens of billions of dollars as well as their laws against same-sex relationships.
Eight European teams have committed to their captains wearing armbands in a bid to show support to the LGBTQ community.
Iran have also faced calls to be taken out of the competition in a group that also includes the United States.
Iranian fan groups want the federation suspended for discriminating against women, and Ukraine soccer officials asked FIFA to remove Iran from the World Cup for human rights violations and supplying the Russian military with weapons.
"We know football does not live in a vacuum and we are equally aware that there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all around the world," the FIFA leaders wrote in their letter Thursday that did not address or identify any specific issue.
"At FIFA, we try to respect all opinions and beliefs, without handing out moral lessons to the rest of the world. One of the great strengths of the world is indeed its very diversity, and if inclusion means anything, it means having respect for that diversity.
Infantino and Samoura added: "No one people or culture or nation is `better´ than any other. This principle is the very foundation stone of mutual respect and non-discrimination. And this is also one of the core values of football.
About 1.2 million international visitors are expected in Qatar during the Nov. 20-Dec. 18 tournament.