– Nasser Al Khater says Qatar has nothing to hide despite allegations of corruption during bidding process
– Says his committee is working with international organisations to improve labour laws
– Says World Cup 2022 will be a truly Middle Eastern affair
Doha: Nasser Al Khater, the Communications Director of the World Cup 2022 Supreme Committee, has told Al Jazeera that he’s confident “the World Cup will take place in Qatar.”
In his first interview since allegations of corruption during the World Cup bid in 2010, reports of migrant worker abuse in Qatar, and the constant debate on whether Qatar is fit to host the tournament, Al Khater spoke exclusively to Al Jazeera’s Lee Wellings in Brazil.
When asked about the FIFA ethics committee’s investigation into corruption during the bidding process for the right to host the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup, Al Khater said his country will comply with the investigation but stressed Qatar has nothing to hide:
“First of all it is actually an investigation into the bidding process of 2018, 2022 World Cup, Qatar is part of that, Russia 2018 is part of that, the whole process is part of that, everybody involved is part of this investigation. So it is unfortunate that people single out Qatar every time they discuss it, which is absolutely not the case. We’ve been true to what we have said in the past, our statements that we always put up have held ourselves to the highest ethical standards stand from my heart. We believe in it, we are confident of it and we are confident of how we’ve behaved.”
Al Khater quickly distanced the relationship between Qatar’s World Cup bid team and Mohammed Bin Hammam, the disgraced FIFA executive who himself is a Qatari and was recently accused with fresh allegations that he used a $5 million slush fund to not only buy goodwill for his tilt at the FIFA presidency but to aid the 2022 bid. Al Khater denied any improper conduct from Qatar:
“Bin Hammam was an executive committee member like the rest of the 23 executive committee members that were present at the time. We had to engage with him, as we had to engage with everybody else. So definitely there was engagement with him. Was he part of our bid? He was not part of our bid. Did he represent us? Not at all, we have to remember that we had to engage with him, we had to convince him and it is not secret that at the very beginning he was quite skeptical about a World Cup in Qatar. But then when he saw the merits in a compact World Cup, he saw the merits on what we can give back to the world of football, I think just like we convinced the others, he was convinced as well”.
Qatar’s World Cup preparations have been rocked by investigations by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on the malpractices and the treatment of migrant workers, mostly from Nepal and India, who are considered to live and work in slave-like conditions. Al Khater said his committee are doing everything they can to make working conditions safe in Qatar as preparations are underway:
“I think people have to keep in mind Qatar, and the progress of Qatar, and the evolution of Qatar in the past thirty years, what Qatar has achieved, is what some western European countries have achieved in 150 years that includes laws as well. Labour laws are mashed within these laws, what happens in a country that progresses so quickly and population wise progresses so quickly. I have to say Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, we work with them, I find them fantastic, they are very collaborative, they are very constructive, they are critical when they have to be and we like working with them.”
Prior to the 2014 World Cup, the FIFA President, Sepp Blatter said it may have been a mistake award the tournament to Qatar due to the intense summer months, where the temperature reaches up to 50 degrees Celsius. The initial technical report into Qatar’s bid had clearly stated it was too hot, Blatter had further added that the tournament might be held in Qatar’s winter instead of summer instead. Al Khater said either way his country can host the World Cup in the summer months or winter.
“Let us be honest, we can host a World Cup in the summer. We are waiting on the task force to come back and make the recommendations and we are waiting for a decision that will be made by whether it is congress, the executive committee. I don’t know we are waiting for that decision to be able to implement and go forward. Our plans won’t change, we are going to be ready to host the World Cup in 2022, whether is the winter or summer of 2022.”
Al Khater reassured the world the 2022 World Cup will be a celebration and truly a Middle Eastern affair.
“These two billion people are going to be from various cultures, various ethnicities, various people from different parts of west Asia, the Middle East, north Africa and I think it is going to be rich and vibrant. That will be the time when people are going to realise that they are mingling with people in the Middle East, celebrating the common language of football, which is going to be absolutely great. The Middle East had three attempts prior to ours, and this is just a continuation for us of trying an attempt to host the first World Cup in the Middle East and we’ve succeeded and therefore we stay committed to what we’ve said, that we want truly for this to be a World Cup that represents the Middle East, that people experience a Middle Eastern culture, not just the Qatari culture.”
The interview will be on Al Jazeera English on 16th July at 1045GMT
For more information and interview requests please email pressoffice@aljazeera.