Norway is leading growing calls for a boycott of the Qatar World Cup

Norway stars Erling Haaland and Martin Odegaard took part in the Qatar World Cup protest in their opening match against Gibraltar on Wednesday.

Pressure is mounting on Norway to pull out of next year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar, should they qualify, amid concerns over human rights and labour workers in the host country.

Rosenborg BK became the latest top-flight Norwegian club to back calls for a boycott after 202 members voted in favour of the move, with just 46 against, at a meeting yesterday.

The country’s most successful club joins fellow Eliteserien sides Tromsø, Odds Ballklub, Strømsgodset, Viking and Brann in declaring their support for a Norwegian boycott.

Proposals are now expected to be submitted to the Norwegian Football Federation, who are due to hold to meet on March 14.

A decision is unlikely to be made until the Federation stages its Annual General Meeting next year.

The Norwegian team are due to start their qualification campaign on March 24 with a trip to Gibraltar as they bid to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1998.

But calls are growing for them to withdraw from the competition after The Guardian reported that 6,500 workers had died in Qatar over the past 11 years.

The mortality rate among these communities is within the expected range for the size and demographics of the population,” the Qatar government told the Guardian in response.

Qatar was controversially awarded the 2022 FIFA World Cup in 2010 despite allegations of bribery and corruption in the bid process.

Tromsø were the first Norwegian club to call for a boycott, describing the number of deaths as “horrifying”.

“Tromsø IL thinks it is time for football to stop and take a few steps back,” a statement from the club read.

“We should think about the idea of football and why so many people love our sport.

“The fact that corruption, modern slavery and a high number of dead workers are the basis of the most important thing we have, the World Cup, is not at all acceptable.”

Roberto Martinez disagrees

As players continue to protest the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Belgium manager Roberto Martínez says boycotting the tournament would be a big mistake.

“It would be a big mistake,” he told CNN Sport’s Don Riddell. “I think it is the time to face that situation and I think boycotting the World Cup wouldn’t be the solution.

“I think at the moment, we all know that the situation (with) the World Cup going to Qatar is a unique opportunity to bring the eyes of the world into any aspects that they are not right in society.

“We know that there’s been big issues, but we know as well that because of the World Cup, the Qatari government is already putting things in place and will follow all the human rights institutions.

“The message is very clear: don’t turn your back. Boycotting is the easy escape. What we need to do is make sure that we all participate and make it a successful World Cup. And then, from that point, make sure that change is there.”
With European qualifying matches for the World Cup getting underway this week, Belgium defeated Wales 3-1 on Wednesday and next faces Czech Republic on Saturday and Belarus on Tuesday.

The stake is huge

The Gulf monarchy has embarked upon an unprecedented building programme in readiness for 2022.

Eight stadiums are being built from scratch or revamped for the tournament, dozens of news roads, a new metro system, airport, hotels, even a brand new city will be constructed in time for the World Cup.

In 2017, Qatar revealed it was spending $500 million a week on the World Cup, an eye-watering amount even for a country transformed into one of the wealthiest on earth by vast gas revenues.

The transformation of the country is unique among nations preparing for a sporting tournament. When former FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced Qatar would be the 2022 host, just 1.8 million lived and worked in Qatar.

Today, the population is around 2.8 million, swollen by importing hundreds and thousands of construction workers many from Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Pakistan.

It is the treatment of these workers which has caused huge concern around the world, with allegations – many substantiated – that too many live in poor accommodation, regularly go unpaid, and are treated appallingly by bosses in a system that is modern-day slavery.

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