Infantino says ‘all welcome’ as Qatar begins one-year countdown


DOHA, Nov 21 (Reuters) – FIFA President Gianni Infantino insisted that “all are welcome in Qatar” on Sunday as a digital countdown clock went on display in Doha to mark one year until the opening of the controversial 2022 soccer World Cup, the first to be held in the Middle East. The opening match will take place next Nov. 21 in the 60,000 capacity Al Bayt Stadium. The head of soccer’s world governing body urged LGBTQ soccer fans and all others to attend the tournament and “engage and speak and convince” in a bid to influence the Gulf Arab state’s policies. “We cannot think that if we stay home and just criticize things will change. Things have improved. Things will continue to improve,” he said. At the event on Sunday night, soccer stars like David Beckham and Samuel Eto’o watched a drone display from a jetty in Doha’s West Bay as organisers promised a “spectacular” tournament. But on the sidelines officials were on the defensive about key issues that have dogged the tournament for years like Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ laws, the welfare of migrant workers and allegations of corruption.

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