‘FIFA World Cup is a unifying force’
Secretary General of the Supreme Committee says FIFA’s showpiece event has already united the region’s people.
The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will be a great unifying force, believes Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC). Al Thawadi, speaking at the 2019 Concordia Summit on the sidelines of the 74th United Nations General Assembly in New York, said Qatar 2022 was already uniting the region three years before the kick-off and despite the ongoing political blockade.
“Politically, there’re issues, and Qatar is currently subject to an illegal blockade. But if you look at it from the people’s point of view, the region is together. People are supportive of the World Cup.” he said.
Al Thawadi cited instances of how people from the blockading countries were also involved in activities related to Qatar 2022.
“We recently opened up a volunteering forum and over 200,000 people from the region, including many from blockading states, expressed their interest to be part of it. We launched the tournament logo, a few weeks ago, and it was projected onto iconic buildings in various cities across the region. The support and reactions were just invigorating and a significant portion came from blockading nations. It confirms the vision we’ve – sport is a unifying platform and nothing is more powerful,” he said.
The SC Secretary General said Qatar had always embraced people from different nations and cultures.
“Politically, there’re issues, and Qatar is currently subject to an illegal blockade. But if you look at it from the people’s point of view, the region is together. People are supportive of the World Cup.”
Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC)
During a question and answer session titled ‘Sport’s Transformational Power: The first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East’, he said, “Qatar is a welcoming nation and we will host a welcoming tournament. Throughout history people have constantly visited Qatar and felt safe.
“Everyone will be welcome in Qatar – this’ll be an inclusive tournament. It’s the first World Cup in an Arab, Middle Eastern country and that’s a great opportunity. We don’t all necessarily share the same point of view, but our differences should not separate us – we should appreciate our differences. Our humanity is the commonality between us,” he added.
Al Thawadi said the tournament’s success would depend on the difference it could make on people’s lives.
“For me, the measure of success will be in 2025 and 2026, when you look at young people and see that they’ve directly or indirectly benefitted from our hosting of the World Cup. Success will be finding individuals where this tournament has bettered their lives,” he said.
Al Thawadi turned the spotlight on how the World Cup had contributed to social development and labour reforms.
“Before 2010, Qatar committed to worker welfare reforms, but the World Cup served as a catalyst to accelerate those reforms. Since then, we’ve cooperated with international organisations and made extensive progress in areas such as health and safety and others,” he said.
Al Thawadi felt Qatar’s focus on workers’ welfare had resulted in positive outcomes.
“One area we’re very proud of is the reimbursement of recruitment fees, which many migrant workers are forced to pay in order to move abroad for a job to support their families. We coordinated with a number of our contractors and they’ve agreed to reimburse all those workers who said they had paid recruitment fees, irrespective of whether there’s a paper trail or not. We’re on track to reimburse around $20m to workers by 2021, including many who’re not engaged directly on World Cup projects. That’s an example of the legacy we want to leave,” he explained.
Al Thawadi also met with several members of the civil society, top officials and representatives of various organisations, including Centre for Sports and Human Rights, Red Cross/Red Crescent, International Rescue Committee, World Economic Forum and Uber.