DOHA (AFP) – Qatar reacted angrily yesterday after its Gulf rival the United Arab Emirates questioned whether it should be allowed to host the 2022 football World Cup without a change of policy.
A UAE minister had said on Tuesday that Doha’s hosting of the tournament should include a commitment to fighting extremism, comments that threatened to engulf the sport in the diplomatic crisis that has driven the region since June.
The UAE and three other Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia have cut all diplomatic and transport links with the emirate and barred its citizens until it meets their demand for a drastic change in policy.
They accuse Qatar of supporting “terrorist groups” but their allegations largely focus on the Muslim Brotherhood, a group blacklisted by them but not by the United Nations or Western governments.
UAE state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted that Qatar’s hosting of the world’s premier football tournament risked tarnishing the game.
“Hosting World Cup 2022 should not be tainted by support of extremist individuals & orgs/ terrorist figures, review of Qatar’s policies a must,” he said.
“Qatar’s hosting of World Cup 2022 should include a repudiation of policies supporting extremism & terrorism. Doha should review its record.”
Qatar retorted that Gargash’s comments were just “petty jealousy” from the UAE, whose main cities Abu Dhabi and Dubai have long prided themselves on being the natural venues for major international events in the Gulf.
“The UAE’s demand that Qatar give up the World Cup shows their illegal blockade is founded on petty jealousy, not real concerns,” a government statement said.
“The World Cup, like our sovereignty, is not up for discussion or negotiation.”
Qatar is the first Arab country to be chosen to host the FIFA World Cup.
The wealthy emirate – the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas – has launched massive construction projects in preparation for hosting the tournament.
They have triggered a huge influx of migrant labour that has seen the population surge to 2.4 million but also raised criticism of working and living conditions for the 90 percent of them who are foreigners.