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Football: Netherlands joins Germany, Norway in Qatar World Cup protest

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By Euronews  with AP
Netherlands' players enters on the field with shirts reading 'Football Supports Change' prior to the start of the World Cup 2022 qualifier vs Latvia on March 27, 2021.
Netherlands' players enters on the field with shirts reading 'Football Supports Change' prior to the start of the World Cup 2022 qualifier vs Latvia on March 27, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Peter Dejong

The Dutch men's football team on Saturday wore T-shirts reading "Football supports change" in an apparent statement against Qatar's human rights track record ahead of the 2022 World Cup. 

The protest, which comes after similar action from the German and Norwegian teams earlier in the week, was carried out before the qualifying match against Latvia which Netherlands went on to win 2-0.

The team said in a statement that "Qatar is where we'd like to become world champions. But not without looking outside the box. That's why we use our football for change."

"As early as 2010, the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) expressed its opposition to Qatar holding the World Cup. Conditions for migrant workers in the country are terrible, but a boycott is not the best response." 

"Human rights organisations emphasise that a boycott would mean that migrant workers would lose their wages and recent progress in Qatar would come to a halt. In their view, it is better at this stage to go to Qatar and use the World Cup to exert diplomatic pressure on the authorities to pursue reforms," it added. 

A day earlier, Germany had made a similar statement with players lining up before their qualifier against Iceland, each with one white letter to spell out "HUMAN RIGHTS". The German team won the match 3-0.

The President of the German Football Association said he was "very proud" of the team's action.

"We must stand up for our values, which are written in our statutes, and let our voices be heard at all times. If someone cannot rally behind a statement for human rights, they urgently need to realign their morals," Fritz Keller also said. 

Norwegian players were the first to start the movement on Wednesday ahead of their match versus Gibraltar by wearing T-shirts emblazoned with "Human rights on and off the pitch."

They doubled down on their protest on Saturday ahead of their game against Turkey in Malaga, Spain, urging other teams to follow suit. The players' T-shirts also bore the names of Norway and Germany with ticks beside them and the question “Next?”

Denmark is expected to join the protest on Sunday afternoon ahead of their qualifier against Moldova.

FIFA’s disciplinary code states players and federations can face disciplinary action in cases of “using a sports event for demonstrations of a non-sporting nature.”

FIFA has not opened a case against Norway or Germany for their actions.

Qatar was a controversial choice to host the 2022 Men's World Cup and has been under scrutiny since because of its discriminatory laws and conditions for the migrant workers who are helping to build the infrastructure for the event.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said last week Qatar has made social progress because of becoming the World Cup host.

England manager Gareth Southgate said the English Football Association and Amnesty International have been in talks. Amnesty International wrote to the FA last year urging them to put pressure on FIFA to ensure the rights of migrant workers in Qatar are properly protected.