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From beer ban to LGBT laws, why Qatar World Cup is so controversial?

The Fifa World Cup kick-offs in Qatar on Sunday. Even before the world’s most coveted sporting event started, it has been marred with controversies. 

Host Qatar has been criticised for its stance on same-sex relationships, its human rights record and its treatment of migrant workers. And the latest in the row is the beer and clothing ban. 

Here are all the reasons why the Fifa World Cup is controversial:

LGBT laws: Homosexual acts are illegal in Qatar as they are considered immoral under Islamic Sharia law. Its punishment includes fines, prison sentences of up to seven years – and even death by stoning.

Though Qatar’s World Cup organisers have categorically stated that  “everyone is welcome”, Qatar 2022 chief executive Nasser al Khater pointed out the government will not change its laws on homosexuality and has asked visitors to “respect our culture”

Treatment of migrant workers: Around 30,000 workers from countries such as India, Bangladesh, Nepal and the Philippines have been building facilities for the World Cup finals. 

A Guardian report, citing embassies in Qatar data, said 6,500 migrant workers had died in the country since it won the World Cup bid. Denying the reports, the government however said between 2014 and 2020, there were 37 deaths among labourers at World Cup stadium construction sites, only three of which were “work-related”. Others who have died might be those who have been living in the country for long and died of old age or other reasons. 

Beer ban: Qatar on Friday said it has decided to ban the sale of beer at World Cup stadiums. The decision, which came two days before the tournament’s opening match on Sunday, was confirmed on Friday by FIFA, the tournament’s owner.

“Following discussions between host country authorities and FIFA, a decision has been made to focus the sale of alcoholic beverages on the FIFA Fan Festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues,” FIFA announced. The decision, it said, would mean “removing sales points of beer from Qatar’s FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters.”

Clothing Ban: Female fans are to ensure that they do not violate the dress code norms by wearing revealing clothes at the stadium. 

As per FIFA, fans have the freedom to wear clothes of their choice but also have to respect the country’s laws and ensure their body parts are not exposed. FIFA World Cup official website says visitors are expected to “cover their shoulders and knees” when they visit public places in the country like museums and government buildings.

How the teams are protesting?

Several teams participating in the tournament have already expressed their discomfort against such rules. 

  • Denmark will wear “toned-down” shirts to protest against Qatar, where thousands of workers lost their lives due to the tournament. 
  • Team Australia released a video urging Qatar to abolish its same-sex laws.
  • Paris, and other French cities, will not screen matches in public areas

Meanwhile, Fifa has written to all 32 teams competing at the World Cup telling them to “now focus on the football”. The letter urges that football should not be “dragged” into ideological or political “battles” and it should not be “handing out moral lessons”.

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