David Beckham was appointed as a brand ambassador for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Former Manchester United legend David Beckham has once again defended his decision to work alongside Qatar to promote the FIFA World Cup 2022 and addressed criticisms in an interview with the Telegraph on Saturday to promote his new Netflix docu-series titled ‘Beckham‘.
The footballing icon expressed his desire to be a force for good and said he does not have any regrets for being involved in the World Cup last year – the first ever to be held in the Muslim and Arab world.
“I do a lot of research into partners that I’m going into business with. And I wanted to be involved in another World Cup. I like to see the game grow, and that means it going into territories it hasn’t been in before,” he said.”Of course going into this, I knew there’d be questions, I knew there was going to be criticism, but I’ve always been a believer that football is such a powerful tool”.
Qatar faced a slew of criticism since winning the bid to host the World Cup back in 2010, with critics in the west pointing to its treatment of migrant worker rights and refusing to acknowledge a range of reforms rolled out on the ground.
As the World Cup edged closer last year, officials from Qatar took on a more striking approach in a last bid attempt to hit back at the anti-Qatar media campaign.
Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani as well as other top officials repeatedly slammed “racism” behind the campaigns.
Doha said the criticism appeared to drift from issues that initially centered on migrant workers rights and LGBTQ issues to outright ‘sensationalism’.
Speaking on the issue, Beckham said: “I spent a month out there, and not one person came up to me and said, “Oh my God, I’ve been treated like this, oh my God, I wasn’t allowed into this place…” I was around the LGBTQ community, I spoke to people on the ground. So I was happy with my decision.”
However, many tried to disrupt the tournament as much as possible. Examples include Denmark darkening the color of their kit as a sign of protest, BBC choosing not showing the opening ceremony and Germany covering their mouths in a team photo during a group match against Japan, protesting over Fifa’s ruling to ban OneLove armbands.
Beckham was not alone in praising Qatar’s World Cup. Towards the tournament’s end, praise was widespread. Footballers, pundits, and fans had commended the country’s hosting.
In a poll by the BBC, in voting for the greatest World Cup this century, Qatar won by a long shot with 78% of the votes, the closest being Japan/South Korea in 2002 with a mere 6%.
A French fan, who admitted their reluctance in watching their team in Qatar, retracted their initial doubts, while as they were going they were “ashamed to tell people we were going to Qatar”, but admit that in the end they would return happy and that “there’s a lot of nonsense spoken about this country”.
Beckham also praised the quality of the fan experience, stating ‘Seeing the fans come together and the level of football – it’s been amazing. It’s been a privilege to see the excitement and the fun the fans are having, the level of football has been incredible’.
Other high level praise includes FIFA president Infantino, who supported Qatar’s right to host the tournament throughout its campaigning.
“The World Cup has been an incredible success on all fronts; the main one being the fans, the behaviour, the joyful atmosphere, the bringing of people together. The fans meeting the Arab world, it has been very important for the future of all of us,” Infantino said in his closing address.
David Beckham currently spends his time as director of Major League Soccer club Inter Miami, which made headlines in the summer after signing Lionel Messi, one of the greatest players in history, and winner of the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
For more about Beckham, the star’s documentary series is set to be released next Wednesday on Netflix.