Gary Lineker responds to claims he snubbed Qatari World Cup chief - 'Very odd'

16 April 2022 Wembley - FA Cup semi-final - Manchester City v Liverpool - Gary Lineker working for the BBC.(Photo by Mark Leech).
Gary Lineker has spoken out against Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup. (Getty Images)

Qatar’s World Cup chief has criticised Gary Lineker for refusing to engage with organisers over his forthright views of the tournament, as the BBC presenter refuted any claims that contact had been made.

Hassan Al-Thawadi, who successfully fronted Qatar’s World Cup bid, said he was a fan of the former England captain, but hit out at the 61-year-old fon Monday for failing to make contact “three or four times” - the last being in February - so that he could tell the Qatari side.

In an interview with Talksport Al-Thawadi said: “The most important element about this is breaking down misconceptions and stereotypes that people have – which means they need to engage.

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“The reason is because it is a platform that gives you the opportunity to engage. People like Roy [Keane] and Gary [Lineker], or whoever else, there was no engagement.

“I looked up to him [Lineker] growing up. When I was in Sheffield, I watched ‘They Think It’s All Over’. I used to love it, the banter, the sense of humour.

FILE - Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the World Cup organizing committee talks during an interview with The Associated Press in Doha, Qatar, on March 31, 2022. A long-standing whistleblower allegation of cash offers to voters during Qatar’s winning bid to host the World Cup was aired and denied again in a Netflix documentary released Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic, File)
Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the World Cup organising committee, has fronted the Qatar World Cup bid. (AP)

Responding on Twitter, Lineker wrote: “Well, this is news to me. Neither my agent nor myself received any request to engage with anyone involved with Qatar 2022. I have my weaknesses, but I’m not that rude. Very odd.”

Qatar was given the green light to host the World Cup by Fifa in 2010 when the Middle East nation beat off the rival bids from the United States, Australia, South Korea and Japan.

Watch: Richard Madeley accuses Gary Lineker of hypocrisy over Qatar criticism

Qatar has since been hit by controversy over the Fifa vote, its human rights record and laws banning same-sex relationships.

On the eve of the tournament, Lineker told the BBC that he was in Qatar to "report, not support" the World Cup and would highlight issues that had "tainted" the sport's showpiece to date.

"This is our job to come and report it and show people what it's about at home and hopefully in a fair way," he said.

Photo taken on Sept. 1, 2021 shows the aerial view of 974 Stadium which will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup matches in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Xinhua via Getty Images)
An aerial view of 974 Stadium, one of the eight World Cup venues in Qatar. (Getty Images)

This was highlighted when Lineker opened the BBC's coverage of the Qatar World Cup by highlighting some of the issues faced by the tournament hosts in a no-nonsense monologue. The 30-minute segment also meant that the opening ceremony was shunned by the national broadcaster.

The BBC revealed that nearly 1,500 complaints flooded in following the speech, amid claims it was too tough on Qatar.

“I was disappointed there was never the desire to listen to our part of the story," said Al-Thawadi.

The Qatari also accused former German star and BBC commentator Jurgen Klinsmann of making ‘racist’ remarks during his punditry role in the Iran and Wales game.

Hassan Abdulla Al Thawadi, the chief executive of Qatar's World Cup 2022 Bid Committee, speaks during a news conference on the sidelines of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Annual Awards 2009 in Kuala Lumpur November 24, 2009. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad (MALAYSIA SPORT HEADSHOT SOCCER)
Hassan Abdulla Al Thawadi speaks during a news conference in 2009. (Reuters)

Klinsmann had accused Iran of having "worked the referee", suggesting that players getting to the match officials and pushing the boundaries of acceptability was "part of their culture".

It forced Iran manager Carlos Queiroz to issue a staunch defence of his team, while calling Klinsmann “a disgrace to football”.

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Al-Thawadi said: “The Iran vs Wales game. Iran played very good. They were the better team.

“And yet the coverage that we saw on BBC by Jurgen Klinsmann talking about their culture and reflecting the players in a way that was… I don’t like using the word, I will use it only once because I don’t want to give power to the word, it was very elitist, orientalist and racist to a certain extent.

“I’ll say it this way: you look at what is happening and you say it is part of their culture, what do you mean by that? Are you saying it was misunderstood? He was representing a culture in a negative way.”

Klinsmann, a former USA coach, has tried to play down the row saying Queiroz had taken his comments in "completely" the wrong way.