Outspoken British identity Piers Morgan says Socceroos players are "hypocritical" for speaking out against FIFA World Cup hosts, Qatar, over the country's human rights record.
On Thursday, Australia's football stars released a politically charged statement ahead of the Qatar World Cup, calling for the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships in the Middle Eastern country.
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The Socceroos also demanded improvement in worker rights in Qatar, labelling reforms in the World Cup host country as inconsistent.
The Islamic country of 2.7 million people was awarded the Cup in 2010, prompting a $A470 billion construction program including eight stadiums, a new train system in Doha and numerous hotels.
About two million migrant workers, chiefly from south-east Asia, came to Qatar to help build the infrastructure, with many dying in the process.
The exact number of deaths has been heavily disputed, with Qatari authorities saying 37 migrant workers linked to the construction of stadiums, lost their lives.
The Guardian newspaper says the Cup-related body count is more like 6500 - a figure officials say is rubbery as it includes all deaths of south-east Asian workers in Qatar since 2010.
In delivering their video message - backed by Football Australia - Socceroos players noted that Qatar's government has implemented reforms to the rights of workers.
"Whilst the reforms established in Qatar are an important and welcome step, their implementation remains inconsistent and requires improvement," the players say in their statement.
"We have learnt the decision to host the World Cup in Qatar has resulted in suffering and in the harm of countless of our fellow workers.
"These migrant workers who have suffered are not just numbers.
"Like the migrants that have shaped our country and our football, they possess the same courage and determination to build a better life."
While controversy has continued to dog the World Cup in Qatar, the Socceroos became the first major national side to speak out against the hosts in such a way.
In a scathing response, however, Morgan accused the Socceroos of "virtue signalling" and questioned why they weren't boycotting the tournament if they felt so strongly about their views against Qatar.
Fine virtue-signalling words… presume you will now be boycotting the tournament? Or don’t you guys care THAT much? https://t.co/TvBj6BK1Mo
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) October 27, 2022
He tweeted: "Fine virtue-signalling words… presume you will now be boycotting the tournament? Or don’t you guys care THAT much?”
“Either go and play football, or don’t go. Pretending you’re outraged by a country’s morality but then actively promoting the country is hypocritical.
“I find the faux moral outrage around ‘sports-washing’ increasingly irritating. If you want to make a moral stand, fine - do it properly & boycott the event/country that offends your morality. Or shut up and play sport.”
Qatar organisers praise Socceroos' message
Morgan's stinging rebuke comes after organisers of the Qatar World Cup praised the Socceroos for speaking up about human rights in the Middle Eastern nation.
Qatar's organisers - the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy - said "no country is perfect" but insists they are constantly striving to improve it for the benefit of future generations.
"And every country - hosts of major events or not - has its challenges," the committee said in a statement.
"This World Cup has contributed to a legacy of progress, better practice, and improving lives - and it's a legacy that will live long after the final ball is kicked.''
Qatar will become the first Middle Eastern nation to host a World Cup when the tournament starts on November 20.
The Socceroos, including captain Mat Ryan, acknowledged recent workplace reforms by the Qatari government but said "their implementation remains inconsistent and requires improvement."
But the Cup organisers said recent reforms initiated by the Qatari government would change workplace culture but take time to fully implement.
"The Qatari government's labour reforms are acknowledged by the ILO (International Labour Organisation), ITUC, (International Trade Union Confederation) and numerous human rights organisations as the benchmark in the region," the committee said.
"New laws and reforms often take time to bed in, and robust implementation of labour laws is a global challenge, including in Australia."
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