Qatar FM slams 'hypocrisy' of World Cup criticism, saying most football fans excited for tournament
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told Le Monde that the criticism has come from a group of around 10 countries at most, and does not reflect the anticipation of fans.
"There is a lot of hypocrisy in these attacks, which ignores all that we have achieved. They are peddled by a very small number of people," Al-Thani said.
"The reality is that the world is looking forward to this celebration. More than 97% of the tickets were sold. Among the ten countries that bought the most tickets, we find European countries such as France."
Asked why Qatar removed its controversial kafala system, which tied employees to their bosses, only after the majority of stadium work had been completed in 2020, the minister conceded that the government still has work to do but is committed to reforms.
"We have recognised the issues regarding worker welfare. We even invited NGOs to come and observe our system. We have come a long way to overhaul our legislation. Such reforms take time. This goes for any country, it is not unique to Qatar," Al Thani said.
"Of course, there are still flaws, and we are determined to fix them. But why systematically blame these problems on our government, when in Europe, at the slightest incident, it is the company that is blamed? Why this double standard? I think some people do not accept that a small country in the Middle East hosts such a global event."
The foreign minister's remarks come just 16 days before the World Cup, where 32 nations will compete for football's top international trophy.
Amid sustained criticism over workers' rights and LGBTQ issues, top Qatari officials have in recent weeks spoken out against what they describe as a coordinated campaign against Doha.
The government has said that critics have not recognised the reforms implemented so far and said everyone - including members of the LGBT community - is welcome at the event.
Last week, Qatar's foreign ministry summoned the German ambassador to Doha and handed him a protest memorandum over Interior Minister Nancy Faeser's comments where she criticised the Gulf state for hosting the football tournament.
It was the first time a foreign ambassador had been summoned over such comments.