Authorities in Qatar have dismissed the move as trivialising years of progress in the Gulf state.
Danish sportswear company Hummel is toning down Denmark’s national team World cup kit in protest of human rights abuses in Qatar ahead of the upcoming tournament, triggering outrage online for the perceived “hypocrisy.”
Debuting the Danish team’s jerseys on its social media pages, Hummel showcased a black third kit symbolising the “colour of mourning.”
The company has stated that it intends to make a statement with its jerseys by withdrawing from designing a more multifaceted kit.
“While we support the Danish national team all the way, this shouldn’t be confused with support for a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives,” Hummel stated.
“We wish to make a statement about Qatar’s human rights record and its treatment of the migrant workers that have built the country’s World Cup stadiums.”
Utilising the hashtag “HistoryIsWhatWeDoNow,” the company and its supporters believe the move to be a pivotal step in advocating for the rights of migrants.
“The right message,” several accounts stated in response to the announcement.
“This is an astonishingly powerful message. Respect to Hummel for standing by their principles here,” another user commented.
However, others, including residents from Qatar, called the company’s move a marketing gimmick, with many using the Arabic hashtag #DenmarkNationalTeamNotWelcome to express their frustration.
“Look who’s talking ,All this drama because they can’t handle the idea that an arab muslim country is hosting the world cup , Watch out and don’t be deceived they don’t care about human rights,” one Twitter user said.
“Shame on Denmark attacking the World Cup in Qatar and your human rights record is disastrous. You expel refugees and expose them to death. Even animals have not been spared from you. Racism and discrimination against the Arabs,” another user said.
“Considering they used to sponsor two Qatar based football teams, it’s a bit of a weird one… Pure marketing PR,” Qatar resident Irfan Atcha told Doha News.
A few seasons ago, the Danish sportswear company sponsored local Qatari teams Al Kharaitiyat and Qatar SC and also sold its products at its store in a prominent mall in the Gulf state.
“A Danish-based manufacturer pretends they care about human rights while their country bans a human’s right to wear an hijab. Make it make sense,” stated one user.
Associate Professor at King’s College London, Dr. Andreas Krieg, called out Hummel for its ironic actions.
“Irony in the era of globalisation: Danish shirt manufacturer let’s sweatshops in South East Asia run overtime to produce jerseys at short notice to protest labour conditions in Qatar’s construction sector,” Krieg wrote.
Other social media users questioned why the Danish team is playing in the tournament at all if they are concerned about human rights.
“I hate performative acts why are you going to the biggest sports tournament on earth?” commented one user.
“If you really wanted to protest you would forfeit going at all lol. But we know that won’t be happening so this is all internet activism to get the ppl going,” said another online user.
Since hosting the first FIFA World Cup event in the Middle East, Qatar has faced more than a decade of unprecedented criticism that many say is unlike other sporting events in modern history.
References to Brazil’s World Cup were brought up in discussion by several social media users.
“Where was this energy for Brazil? Or does the agenda only work for Middle Eastern countries?” stated an online user, pointing to an article highlighting the thousands of residents who were forcefully evicted from their homes for the construction of venues in the South American nation.
In May, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani took aim at the unfair criticism of the Gulf state by the west over its hosting of the 2022 World Cup.
This came during his speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, in which the amir tapped into attacks launched against the Gulf state for being the first in the Middle East to host the major sporting event.
“For decades now, the Middle East has suffered, from discrimination. And I have found that such discrimination is largely based on people not knowing us, and in some cases, refusing to get to know us,” said Sheikh Tamim.
In a statement sent to Doha News responding to the most recent act of protest by Denmark, World Cup authorities dismissed the allegations.
“We dispute Hummel’s claim that this tournament has cost thousands of people their lives. Furthermore, we whole-heartedly reject the trivialising of our genuine commitment to protect the health and safety of the 30,000 workers who built FIFA World Cup™️ stadiums and other tournament projects. That same commitment now extends to 150,000 workers across various tournament services and 40,000 workers in the hospitality sector,” the statement read.
The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy also pointed towards various dialogue between the body and the Danish Football Association(DBU) in collaboration with the UEFA Working Group and various other platforms led by FIFA, which resulted in “better understanding of the progress made, the challenges encountered, and the legacy we will leave after 2022.
“The onus should always be on countries to do more to protect the rights of peoples all over the world, “including in Denmark. The SC’s work is recognised by numerous entities within the international human rights community as a model that has accelerated progress and improved lives.
“Qatar’s reforms are acknowledged by the ILO and ITUC as a benchmark in the region. Like every country, progress on these issues is a journey without a finish line, and Qatar is committed to that journey.”
The statement also urged the DBU to “accurately convey to Hummel the outcome of their extensive communication and work with the [committee]”.
The World Cup body also noted its “commitment to this legacy has contributed to significant reforms to the labour system enacting laws protecting the rights of workers and ensuring improved living conditions for them.”