Fifa scolded in damning speech by Norwegian FA president before World Cup draw

The former international spoke at length at the game’s governing body not taking a tough enough initial stance on key human rights issues

Karl Matchett
Thursday 31 March 2022 16:14 BST
<p>Lise Klaveness cited major ethical topics which had not been dealt with strongly enough by Fifa when selecting the 2022 hosts </p>

Lise Klaveness cited major ethical topics which had not been dealt with strongly enough by Fifa when selecting the 2022 hosts

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Norway FA (NFF) president Lise Klaveness spoke at the Fifa Congress on Thursday to demand the World Cup organisers take a continued lead in promoting change on a humanitarian level, in the lead-up to the 2022 Qatar finals.

Speaking in Doha, Klaveness took to the stage in front of the Fifa Council and gathered member states to underline major ethical topics which had not been dealt with strongly enough by Fifa when selecting the hosts for the tournament this year, calling the decision to hand Qatar the finals “unacceptable”.

A former international who reached a World Cup semi-final with her nation, winning more than 70 caps along the way, Klaveness was appointed to the head of the game in Norway only at the start of March this year and is the country’s first female leader of the NFF.

Explaining how Norway had previously pondered excluding themselves from this year’s competition altogether in protest at Qatar’s human rights record, Klaveness went on to say football’s “core interests” had been ignored until external pressures highlighted their absence.

“Football can inspire dreams and break down barriers but as leaders we must do it right, to the highest standards,” she began.

“Last year Norway debated boycott of the World Cup in 2022. Instead we voted for dialogue and pressure through Fifa as the best way to work for changes. Our members question ethics in sport and demand transparency. Fifa must act as a role model.

“In 2010 World Cups were awarded by Fifa in unacceptable ways with unacceptable consequences.

“Human rights, equality, democracy: the core interests of football were not in the starting XI until many years later. These basic rights were pressured onto the field as substitutes by outside voices. Fifa has addressed these issues but there’s still a long way to go.

“The migrant workers injured, the families of those that died in the build-up to the World Cup must be cared for.

“Fifa must take all necessary measures to really implement change. It is vital that the current leadership continue wholeheartedly in this way, moving from policy to impact.

“There is no room for employers who do not secure the freedom and safety of World Cup workers. No room for leaders who cannot host the women’s game. No room for hosts that cannot legally guarantee the safety and respect of the LGBTQ+ people coming to this theatre of dreams.

“A previous World Cup host has invaded another country. Initially Fifa hesitated [to sanction Russia but], international pressure forced a reaction.

“Fifa must set the tone and lead.”

Hassan Al Thawadi, the secretary general for Qatar 2022, responded on-stage afterwards to suggest that Klaveness’s views were outdated and that she had not negotiated a meeting beforehand to discuss those concerns.

“We have spent 12 years of continuous work dedicated to delivering a tournament that leaves truly transformational social, human, economic and environmental legacies,” he said.

“I’d like to express a disappointment. [Norwegian FA president Klaveness] made no attempt to contact us and did not attempt to engage in dialogue before addressing congress.

“We are always open to constructive criticism based on understanding the context of the issues, understanding progress on the ground and from those who wants to educate themselves before passing any judgement.”

Fifa president Gianni Infantino stated that the host nation had made major steps towards reforming their human rights record

Fifa president Gianni Infantino also then took to the stage to underline his belief that the host nation had made major steps towards reforming their human rights record through legislative change surrounding migrant workers and health and safety standards.

“I believe personally that the only way to provoke positive change is through engagement and dialogue. We should never answer violence with violence, hostility with hostility,” Infantino said.

“From the beginning we have pushed the authorities in Qatar and we have found in them a partner who was engaged in doing what was necessary to have the changes on human rights issues enacted and implemented in this country.

“It has to be recognised six years later that the work that has been done is exemplary. The work that in other countries has taken decades, has been done in a few years.”

In a separate pre-prepared video featuring senior figures from other organisations and industries, Infantino also said the reform in labour legislation from Qatar had been “incredible” over recent times.

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