Headlines seen as “sensationalist” by British tabloids have attached large sums of money to the former footballer’s role as the tournament’s ambassador.
David Beckham has defended his role as the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022’s ambassador by citing his belief in sports as “a force for good”, following a flurry of negative coverage from the British media.
The former footballer was also targeted by English comedian Joe Lycett, who issued him with an ultimatum prior the World Cup’s kickoff.
On Thursday, the comedian read the letter sent by Beckham’s spokesperson on a special edition of Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back on Channel 4.
The letter was the first time Beckham broke his silence on the criticism he faced for being a World Cup ambassador, which centred on Doha’s policies on the LGBTQ+ community and alleged rights abuses of migrant workers.
The spokesperson acknowledged the “different and strongly held views about engagement in the Middle East” while stressing the important role of sports in bringing people together.
“David has been involved in a number of World Cups and other major international tournaments both as a player and an ambassador and he’s always believed that sport has the power to be a force for good in the world,” read part of the statement, as quoted by ITV.
The letter went on to note that Beckham’s team sees the differing views “as positive that debate about the key issues has been stimulated directly by the first World Cup being held in the region.”
“We hope that these conversations will lead to greater understanding and empathy towards all people and that progress will be achieved,” the statement added.
Lycett had previously threatened to shred £10,000 if Beckham did not withdraw from his role, saying that he would instead donate it to LGBTQ+ charities if Beckham complied. The comedian was then seen shredding the money, which he later said was fake.
The controversy surrounding Beckham’s role came months ahead of the World Cup, echoing other concerns raised mainly by media outlets from the West over Qatar’s hosting of the event.
The criticism came amid a wider campaign that has been slammed as “racist” and “unprecedented”, given that Qatar is the first Arab, Muslim country to host the event.
British tabloids had attached a whooping £150 million to the 47-year-old football star’s deal while claiming that it would last for 10 years. The claims were then widely circulated, despite the absence of statements from Beckham or his team.
Last year, a source with knowledge confirmed to Doha News that the claims were based on pure sensationalism. The source said that the actual figure and duration of the deal is far from what has been reported by British media.
“As usual, tabloids like The Sun have opted for sensationalism rather than facts in a cheap attempt at clickbait,” the source told Doha News in October last year.
The source noted that the alleged duration would be practically unfeasible considering the World Cup is scheduled for a single year.