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Could Scandinavian countries lead the way in taking stand against Qatar World Cup?

Vehemently opposed to Qatar's hosting of the 2022 World Cup, football federations in the Nordic countries are putting pressure on Doha and FIFA to improve conditions for migrant workers in the emirate.

Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event.
Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event. Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Together with rights organisation Amnesty International, the federations of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland have ratcheted up the pressure in recent months, raising their concerns and presenting recommendations in letters, meetings with officials and pre-game protests.

“We are against holding the World Cup in Qatar, we thought it was a bad decision,” the head of the Danish federation DBU, Jakob Jensen, told AFP.

“It is wrong in many ways. Because of the human rights situation, the environment, building new stadiums in a country with very little stadium capacity,” he said.

Denmark is the only Nordic country to have qualified for the tournament so far. Sweden face a playoff next year to secure a place and Norway, Finland and Iceland have been eliminated.

Leading the charge, the Danish federation regularly publishes the Nordic countries’ letters sent to FIFA and holds talks with Qatari officials, including an October meeting with Qatar head organiser Hassan Al-Thawadi.

The main concern is migrant workers’ rights.

Qatar has faced criticism for its treatment of migrant workers, many of whom are involved in the construction of the World Cup stadiums and infrastructure.

Campaigners accuse employers of exploitation and forcing labourers to work in dangerous conditions.

Qatari authorities meanwhile insist they have done more than any country in the region to improve worker welfare, and reject international media reports about thousands of workers’ deaths.

The Nordics have also raised other concerns with al-Thawadi, Jensen said.

“Will homosexuals be allowed to attend the World Cup? Will men and women be able to attend the matches together? Will the press have free access to all sorts of issues to do investigations in the country?”

“And all the answers we received were ‘yes’. So of course we’re going to hold him responsible for that,” Jensen said.

The Danish federation said its World Cup participation would focus on the games played on the pitch, and it will not do anything to promote the event for organisers.

It will limit the number of trips it makes to Qatar, the team’s commercial partners will not take part in official activities there, and its two jersey sponsors will allow training kit to carry critical messages.

In Norway, whose qualification bid fell apart when its best player Erling Braut Haaland missed games through injury, the issue culminated in June when its federation held a vote on whether to boycott the World Cup.

READ ALSO: Norway’s economic police call for boycott of Qatar World Cup

Delegates ultimately voted against the idea, but an expert committee recommended 26 measures, including the creation of a resource centre for migrant workers and an alert system to detect human rights violations and inform the international community.

Like other teams, Norway’s squad also protested before each match by wearing jerseys or holding banners like the one unfurled during a recent match against Turkey, reading “Fair play for migrant workers”.

But the Nordic countries have not always acted in line with their own campaign.

Last month at a Copenhagen stadium, a Danish fan was ordered to take down his banner criticising the World Cup in Qatar, as FIFA rules prohibit political statements.

And Sweden’s federation recently scratched plans to hold its winter training camp in the emirate as it has done the past two years.

Sweden’s professional clubs had protested against the hypocrisy of holding the camp there while at the same the federation was leading the protests with Nordic counterparts.

The professional clubs wanted to send a “signal”, the chairman of Swedish Professional Football Leagues, Jens Andersson, told AFP.

Individual players have also spoken out. 

Finland’s captain Tim Sparv last week issued a joint appeal with Amnesty demanding that “FIFA must ensure that human rights are respected”, adding: “We are in debt to those people who have worked for years in poor conditions.”

So far, none of FIFA’s 200 other member federations have joined the Nordic campaign.

“Hopefully all these Nordic neighbours of ours and us taking these steps will have an impact on other countries,” Mats Enquist, secretary general of the Swedish Professional Football League, told AFP.

“We need to ensure that all the aspects of football, not just the richest, are really taken care of when we come to a place.”

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SPORT

MAP: Details of 2022 Tour de France (and Denmark) revealed

Organisers have revealed the route of the 2022 Tour de France cycle race, which will be an international race once more after Covid curtailed this year's event.

The 2022 Tour de France will start in Denmark
The 2022 Tour de France will start in Denmark. Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP

The race will begin in Copenhagen and spend several days in Denmark crossing islands before riders will be transferred back to France for the race to continue from the north east of the country.

The French portion of the route begins in Dunkirk and then travels down the eastern side of the country, taking in the Alps before looping across southern France to the Pyrenees for more mountain racing.

It will finish as usual in Paris, with riders cycling up the Champs-Elysées on Sunday, July 24th.

The Tour usually includes at least one stage outside France, but Covid travel restrictions meant the 2021 race was held entirely in France, apart from a brief trip into the neighbouring micro-state of Andorra.

Copenhagen was originally scheduled to host the 2021 Grand Départ.

The race usually starts on a Saturday, but next year will begin on Friday, July 1st, in order to allow time for the rest days and transfer of all teams back from Denmark to France.

The full route is;

 Stage 1 – July 1st
   Copenhagen – Copenhagen – 13km (time trial)

   Stage 2 – July 2nd
   Roskilde – Nyborg – 199km

   Stage 3 – July 3rd
   Vejle – Sonderborg – 182km

   Stage 4 – July 5th
   Dunkirk – Calais – 172km

   Stage 5 – July 6th
   Lille – Arenberg Porte du Hainaut – 155km

   Stage 6 – July 7th
   Binche (Belgium) – Longwy – 220km

   Stage 7 – July 8th
   Tomblaine – La Super Planche des Belles Filles – 176km

   Stage 8 – July 9th
   Dole – Lausanne (Switzerland) – 184km

   Stage 9 – July 10th
   Aigle (Switzerland) – Chatel – 183km

   Stage 10 – July 11th
   Morzine – Megeve – 148km

   Rest day – July 12th

   Stage 11 – July 13th
   Albertville – Col du Granon – 149km

   Stage 12 – July 14th
   Briancon – Alpe d’Huez – 166km

   Stage 13 – July 15th
   Bourg d’Oisans – Saint-Etienne – 193km

   Stage 14 – July 16th
   Saint Etienne – Mende – 195km

   Stage 15 – July 17th
   Rodez – Carcassonne – 200km

   Rest Day – July 18th

   Stage 16 – July 19th
   Carcassonne – Foix – 179km

   Stage 17 – July 20th
   Saint-Gaudens – Peyragudes – 130km

   Stage 18 – July 21st
   Lourdes – Huatacam – 143km

   Stage 19 – July 22nd
   Castelnau-Magnoac – Cahors – 189km

   Stage 20 – July 23rd
   Lacapelle-Marival – Rocamadour – 40km (time trial)

   Stage 21 – July 24th
   Paris – Paris – 112km

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