Leverkusen says giving World Cup to Qatar was ‘scandalous’

Sports

LEVERKUSEN, Germany (AP) — Bayer Leverkusen became the latest Bundesliga club to criticize the World Cup in Qatar by describing the decision to award the tournament to the country as “scandalous” on Tuesday.

“The World Cup should never have been awarded to Qatar,” Leverkusen said in a statement. “It was the least suitable of all applications for hosting a World Cup according to FIFA’s own audit reports. Out of eight new World Cup stadiums, seven were new-build projects. Football culture does not exist in Qatar. From our perspective, that is a knockout criterion for a potential World Cup host.”

Leverkusen’s statement also referred to widely reported issues of homophobia, the lack of freedom of expression and denial of women’s rights plus the “unacceptable working conditions” endured by migrant workers in Qatar while helping the country get ready to host the 32-team tournament.

“Questions ignored in the award of this tournament 12 years ago on the human rights situation, on equality and the freedom of expression in the host country will justifiably accompany this World Cup,” Leverkusen CEO Fernando Carro said.

Carro, who is also a board member of the European Club Association, will visit Qatar in December for a board meeting to discuss issues raised.

“We now need to work toward making the award criteria for a World Cup significantly more transparent in the future. I will campaign for that,” Carro said.

The club said it will report on its players and their achievements at the World Cup.

“We believe the players cannot be made responsible for the award of the competition to Qatar 12 years ago. Accordingly, they have our respect, our support,” Leverkusen said.

League rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach and Hoffenheim previously criticized the tournament. Gladbach said it will only give it minimal coverage of its own players, while Hoffenheim said it will skip coverage in protest against the “human rights violations and discrimination against homosexuals in the autocratic Gulf state.”

Fans held widespread protests against the tournament across German stadiums in the weeks leading up the Bundesliga’s winter break.

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