Norway’s football federation has ruled out boycotting the 2022 World Cup in Qatar despite pressure from its grassroots over accusations of human rights abuses of migrant workers in the Gulf state.
At an extraordinary congress called by the Norwegian Football Federation (NFF) on Sunday, 368 delegates voted for a motion rejecting a boycott while 121 were in favour.
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In the run-up to the vote, Ole Kristian Sandvik, spokesman of the Norwegian Supporters Alliance (NSA), said the matches in Qatar will “unfortunately be like playing on a cemetery”, a term commonly used by opponents of Norway’s participation.
Norway has not qualified for a major international competition since Euro 2000 and is currently fourth in its World Cup qualifying group.
So although qualification seems an uphill task, the result of the vote could have had an impact on whether Norway continued to play qualifying matches.
The movement calling for a boycott began when the Tromso IL club spoke out in February.
“We can no longer sit and watch people die in the name of football,” the first division club said.
Tom Hogli, a footballer-turned-public-relations-officer for Tromso IL, told the AFP news agency: “There is no doubt that this World Cup should never have been awarded to Qatar. The conditions there are abominable and many have lost their lives.”
Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers and its human rights record have been under the spotlight since it was awarded the hosting of the tournament in 2010.
The country said it has carried out several labour reforms in the run-up to the mega event that takes place in November and December next year.
In August last year, Qatar announced landmark changes to the labour law, including scrapping the need for a “no-objection certificate” – an employer’s permission to change jobs. Earlier this year, a new minimum wage law was also introduced.
In a poll published by the VG newspaper last week, nearly half of Norwegians (49 percent) are in favour of a boycott, while only 29 percent are against.
Feeling the pressure from grassroots campaigns, the NFF referred the matter to an extraordinary congress which on Sunday brought together its eight-member executive committee and representatives of 18 districts and hundreds of professional and amateur clubs.
Discussions revolved around the findings of an expert committee which, with the exception of two members representing fans, had already also come out against a boycott.
Rather than a boycott, the committee had recommended 26 measures to consolidate and further the gains made in Qatar.
Norway’s national squad has already protested conditions in Qatar but stopped short of calling for a boycott.
Before recent games, Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, captain Martin Odegaard and their teammates wore t-shirts with slogans like “HUMAN RIGHTS On and off the pitch”.
FIFA argue that awarding the hosting of the World Cup to Qatar has opened the door to social progress.
“We know there is still work to be done, but we need to recognise the significant progress achieved in a very short time,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in May.