Qatar World Cup defended by French President Emmanuel Macron with plea

Inside England's training ground for 2022 World Cup in Qatar

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French President Emmanuel Macron has leapt to the defence of the Qatar World Cup, urging countries and supporters to separate politics from football. The quadrennial football festival has been marred by issues deeper than the climate forcing it to be staged in winter rather than summer.

The presidential palace has suggested that Macron will visit the Gulf state if France progress past the quarter-finals, a target laid out to Didier Deschamps by the French Football Federation chief Noel Le Graet. He will hope to replicate his joyous trip to Russia in 2018, where he joined in the celebrations after Les Blues beat Croatia to lift their second World Cup.

Speaking at the APEC summit in Bangkok, Macron addressed the criticism surrounding the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar – a nation with a controversial human rights record and attitude towards homosexuality.

He said: “I don’t think sport should be made political. Those questions need to be asked when the tournament is awarded. Whether it’s a question of the climate or human rights, we’re not going to ask ourselves [the question] every time the tournament is here.”

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Macron’s plea mirrors that of FIFA president Gianni Infantino and secretary general Fatma Samoura, who wrote to all 32 countries participating in the World Cup to focus on football rather than politics. They penned the letter in response to growing calls for players to use their platforms to fight the controversy that has marred the Qatar showcase.

The summer heat in Qatar making it a winter tournament rather than in summer as is tradition – but above all, the nation’s poor human rights record and attitude towards homosexuality – made FIFA’s awarding of the 2022 World Cup in 2010 all the more disputed.

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Part of the letter, revealed by Sky Sports, read: “Please, let’s now focus on the football! We know football does not live in a vacuum, and we are equally aware that there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all around the world. But please do not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.”

England and Wales are among six European countries that will wear ‘One Love’ multicoloured armbands at the World Cup as a sign of solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. They have confirmed they will ignore FIFA instructions to remove them if they arrive during a tournament that will likely deal a sour undertone, regardless of the action on the pitch.

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