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Criticism of Qatar ‘excessive’ says French football chief: Report

President of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet, before the 2022 Ballon d'Or awards [File: Benoit Tessier/Reuters]

French Football Federation President Noël Le Graët has defended Qatar as the host of the 2022 World Cup, saying there has been “an excessive campaign” against the country.

In an interview to the French channel RTL, Le Graët said: ” I believe this country [Qatar] is what it is. I look at the football side. It is up to the politicians to do their job.”

His comments mirror a similar sentiment to the one FIFA President Gianni Infantino has expressed, requesting participating countries to “focus on the football”.

Qatar won its bid to host the global football tournament in 2010 but has since faced a barrage of criticism on the rights of workers, the LGBTQ community and others. However, many experts have also accused the West of hypocrisy in the manner in which Qatar has been targeted. The country has also faced racist stereotyping — including in a French cartoon recently.

In his interview, Le Graët pointed out that Qatar and France have a strong economic partnership. “The two governments get along not so badly,” he said. He later used the Qatari businessman Nasser bin Ghanim al-Khelaifi’s ownership of French football club Paris Saint-Germain as an example.

Le Graët also hailed the World Cup as a success so far, “the proof is that the [TV] record was beaten on Tuesday evening; the bistros and cafes were full everywhere”. The French football boss had earlier said he would rather France captain Hugo Lloris not wear the “One Love” armband at the World Cup.

The captains of seven European teams had planned to wear the rainbow-coloured armbands as part of an anti-discrimination campaign but backed down after FIFA threatened disciplinary action.

“It’s not that I’m not in favour of this armband, but sometimes I think we want to lecture others so much that we should also look at what’s happening in our country,” Le Graët had said.