The president of the French Football Association, Noël Le Graët, has defended Qatar as host of the 2022 World Cup and said there had been “an excessive campaign” against the country.
In an interview with French broadcaster RTL, Le Graët said: “I think this country [Qatar] is what it is. I’m looking at the soccer page. It is up to politicians to do their job.”
His comments reflect a similar sentiment to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who urged participating countries to “focus on soccer.”
Qatar won its bid to host the global soccer tournament in 2010 but has since faced a flood of criticism of workers’ rights, the LGBTQ community, and others. However, many experts have also accused the West of hypocrisy in the way Qatar was targeted. The country was also confronted with racist stereotypes — including in a recent French animated film.
In his interview, Le Graët pointed out that Qatar and France have a strong economic partnership. “The two governments aren’t getting along too badly,” he said. He later used the property owned by Qatari businessman Nasser bin Ghanim al-Khelaifi at the French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain as an example.
Le Graët also recognized the World Cup as a previous success. “The proof is that the [TV] record was broken on Tuesday evening; the bistros and cafés were full everywhere.” The French soccer boss had previously said he would prefer French captain Hugo Lloris not wearing the “One Love” armband at the World Cup.
The captains of seven European teams had planned to wear the rainbow-colored wristbands as part of an anti-discrimination campaign, but backed down after FIFA threatened disciplinary action.
“It’s not like I’m not in favor of this bracelet, but sometimes I think we want to give so many talks to others that we should also see what’s happening in our country,” Le Graët had said.