Fatma Samoura, 60, secretary general of the International Football Federation, gave an
interview to L’Équipe last Wednesday during her brief visit to France. For half an hour,
the Senegalese leader promoted the World Cup, minimizing the criticism made of Qatar,
particularly on the issue of homophobia.
“In what state of mind are you a few days before the start of this 22nd World Cup?
I am super excited and especially happy to know that the gaze of nearly five billion
people will be riveted on Qatar. It’s a World Cup of many firsts: the first in the Arab world,
the first to take place during the winter (autumn, in fact, until December 18) , the first
where everyone will be at the same location. The world will have another idea than that
of the Western media on a small country that is Qatar: Arab hospitality will be there.
When people leave, they will still have stars in their eyes for several months.
“The way we dissect Qatar, as the Emir said, I think this is the first time it’s happened like
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To hear you, the Western media would be too severe with Qatar?
The way we dissect Qatar, as the Emir said, I think this is the first time it’s happened like
this. The level of criticism reached an unimaginable point, especially a few days before
the first whistle.
Does that seem unjustified to you?
No, there are criticisms that are justified. (She looks serious) Workers’ conditions before
September 2010 were not acceptable. That’s the reality. Today, enormous progress has
been made. There were problems, the Qatari government and authorities agreed to open
their ears to listen to the world tell them the things that were wrong, but also to
Will the World Cup allow lasting and significant progress in this country?
There is no question that, on December 18, everyone will say to themselves: “We have
delivered a great World Cup, now, to immigrant workers to manage”. No. Commitments
have been made by the government until 2030 to continue working on several reforms
You assured that homosexuals could come to Qatar without any problem and
enjoy the competition. Do you confirm it?
This is not me saying it. It is the Qatari authorities who say so.
Women’s rights, LGBT + rights, alcohol: Qatar plays the relaxation time of the World Cup
Have you discussed it with them? Did you make sure of that?
Yes, we discussed it. They told us: “We will welcome the world with open arms”. We at
FIFA do not discriminate between people’s races, religions, sexual or social orientation.
This World Cup is universal. Whatever your reason for wanting to come to Qatar as a
fan, the authorities are there to welcome you. Qatar is not a homophobic country. They
have laws that are perhaps considered quite restrictive [Editor’s note: the Qatari penal
code provides for penalties of up to 7 years in prison for same-sex relations] , but you will
be, for this Cup of everyone, in any case, welcome. »
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