Qatar hit out at BBC and Gary Lineker over ‘racist’ World Cup coverage

BBC host Gary Lineker   (BBC)
BBC host Gary Lineker (BBC)

Gary Lineker has denied claims from World Cup chief Hassan Al-Thawadi that he refused to “engage” with Qatar to discuss human rights issues before the start of the tournament.

Al-Thawadi criticised Lineker and the BBC for failing to provide a “balanced view” of the host country during their coverage.

The BBC has been hit with complaints that its coverage of the opening game between Qatar and Ecuador was “overly critical” of the host nation.

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Coverage of the match included a monologue from Lineker where he raised the country’s record on corruption, treatment of migrant workers, the illegality of homosexuality and women’s rights.

Al-Thawadi, who is the head of the Qatar World Cup’s delivery committee, claimed that Lineker did not respond to invitations from organisers when they requested the opportunity to address those concerns before the tournament.

He told TalkSport that he was disappointed that he was not given the chance to discuss what he said were “misconceptions and stereotypes” around Qatar.

“He never bothered to engage,” Al-Thawadi said. “We reached out many times. The latest was in February, we reached out three or four times, requesting specifically to sit down with Gary to say, ‘We respect your position, give us the opportunity to put our case in front’.

“At least hear us out. If you don’t agree then, that’s fine, that’s your decision, and that’s your judgement. But we never got the chance. I was disappointed there was never the desire to listen to our part of the story.”

Al-Thawadi went on to criticise Lineker for his monologue on human rights abuses in Qatar before their opening match against Ecuador.

“It should be about football,” he said. “The way the BBC covered the opening ceremony is not about football.

“The way Gary Lineker took three minutes… they never bothered to do that with any other tournament. They never bothered to listen to the other side or at least present a balanced view to be able to sit down and move forward.”

However, Lineker has now hit back by denying that he received an invitation to discuss these issues with tournament organisers.

Responding on Twitter to Al-Thawadi’s interview, 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.”

It comes after Fifa claimed the World Cup had defied concerns about the competition being hosted in Qatar by increasing the number of international television viewers

BBC1’s coverage of the opening game between Qatar and Ecuador attracted an average audience of 6.25 million, a 57.5 per cent increase on the opening match in Russia in 2018.

Al-Thawadi also accused German pundit Jurgen Klinsmann of making “racist” comments in his coverage during Iran’s 2-0 victory against Wales.

He said: “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 world, 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.”