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Qatar World Cup has 'changed perceptions' of Arab region, says tournament chief

Qatar 2022 chief Hassan Al Thawadi believes that the World Cup has “changed perceptions” of the region, while admitting that improved conditions will continue following the “unfortunate deaths” of migrant workers who helped build stadiums in Doha.

In an interview with Sky News, Al Thawadi, secretary general of Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, said that compensation would be in place for workers’ support after previously “unacceptable” conditions.

The World Cup ended on Sunday with the Lusail Iconic Stadium staging the final between Argentina and France.

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"This was a celebration of the Arab people, of our culture, of our tradition, of our history," said Al Thawadi, who helped deliver the competition after the country was awarded rights to host football’s showpiece in 2010.

Qatar's migrant workers watch the Qatar 2022 World Cup round of 16 football match between Morocco and Spain on December 6, 2022, at the Asian Town cricket stadium, on the outskirts of Doha. - The stadium has become a daily draw for thousands of the poorest workers who live in nearby dormitories away from Doha's glitzy shopping malls and restaurants. (Photo by INA FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)
Qatar's migrant workers watch the Qatar 2022 World Cup between Morocco and Spain. (Getty Images)

"People might have come in with different opinions. And I've heard it from many, in particular Europeans, saying that they might have come to support the team - but with trepidation, a little bit of concern.

"But when they engaged with the Qatari community, when they engaged with the Arab community, when they engaged with the hospitality, a lot of them walked away with a different opinion, a different view.”

Qatar, where foreigners make up a majority of the emirate’s 2.9 million population, has faced intense scrutiny over its treatment of migrant workers.

Al Thawadi said in a TV interview last month with Piers Morgan that the number of deaths at World Cup-related projects was "between 400 and 500".

Qatari fans celebrate at Aspire Park in Doha December 2, 2010, after the announcement that Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup. Summer temperatures which can soar to above 50 degrees Celsius and a concern about lack of infrastructure did not deter FIFA on Thursday from awarding the 2022 World Cup to the tiny Gulf state of Qatar. REUTERS/Stringer (QATAR - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)
Qatari fans celebrate at Aspire Park in Doha December 2, 2010, after the announcement that Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup. (Reuters)

"There is a workers' support insurance fund that will be looking into any matters relating to unfortunate deaths," Al Thawadi confirmed on the eve of the final. "And that will continue beyond the World Cup."

Four human rights groups said last week that Fifa was failing to fulfill its responsibilities by refusing to commit to compensate migrant workers and their families.

Fifa announced a legacy fund on the eve of the tournament but the human rights quartet say there is no current provision for worker compensation.

FILE - Workers walk to the Lusail Stadium, one of the 2022 World Cup stadiums, in Lusail, Qatar, Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. The eight stadiums for the World Cup, all within a 30-mile radius of Doha, are now largely complete. Migrant laborers who built Qatar's World Cup stadiums often worked long hours under harsh conditions and were subjected to discrimination, wage theft and other abuses as their employers evaded accountability, a rights group said in a report released Thursday. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)
Migrant workers who built Qatar's World Cup stadiums often worked long hours under harsh conditions. (AP)

Fifa earned record revenues of $7.5 billion (£6.2bn) in commercial deals tied to the 2022 World Cup.

"We must remember the blood sweat and tears of everyone that's made it happen," former footballer Alan Shearer said in his capacity as a BBC pundit ahead of Sunday's final.

"It's only right that Fifa compensate the migrant workers and their families."

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