FOLLOWING the letter sent by Fifa to all nations competing in the World Cup asking them to “not allow football to be dragged into ideological or political battles”, it appears that the Qatar World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman and the former president of Fifa did not get the memo.

Mr Salman, a former Qatar international player, urged competing nations to accept his country’s rules, while offering his sage advice that homosexuality is “damage in the mind”. With one single antediluvian outburst, Mr Salman confirmed the worst fears of many in the international community who cherish human rights and who view the staging of the World Cup in Qatar with anger and not a little apprehension.

To add insult to injury, Sepp Blatter, the former Fifa president and football’s very own Bond villain, now proclaims that he was against the tournament being held in Qatar all along and that it was all Michel Platini’s fault. Blatter’s apparent Damascene conversion to decency and a code of ethics will fool no one.

The staging of the World Cup in countries with dubious human rights records has been done before – Russia and Argentina readily spring to mind – and a recent commentator likened the decision to stage the forthcoming tournament in Qatar to the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

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It should be noted, however, that Berlin was awarded the Olympics in 1931 during the Weimar Republic and two years before Hitler came to power whereas the decision to stage the finals in Qatar was made in full knowledge of its appalling record on human rights and its treatment of migrant workers, many of whom have lost their lives working in pharaonic conditions.

The current Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, should accept the reality of his present responsibilities and admit voicing concerns over human rights is the least players and associations should be expected to do in the present circumstances, and guarantee countries that deny basic freedoms to their peoples will never stage international events such as the World Cup. Sport can never be termed apolitical when the host nation is guilty of consistently and flagrantly repudiating civil liberties.

Acts such as taking the knee have become commonplace in European football, placing the sport firmly in the political arena. The England captain, Harry Kane, intends to wear a OneLove armband at the World Cup to highlight discrimination along with at least nine others.

It is important that a world audience, and young people in particular, know and understand the significance of this type of gesture in addition to watching the best players in the world perform their trade. It’s too late to stop the World Cup being held in Qatar but it’s not too late to use this stage to highlight human rights concerns and try to precipitate much-needed reform.

Owen Kelly


PERHAPS it is not surprising that democracy deniers and climate change deniers appear to be working together in criticising the attendance of the First Minister at COP27.

As the democratic governance of the UK under a right-wing Tory Party (minimally opposed by a now right-of-centre Labour Party of which Tony Blair would be proud) collapses further into incompetence and disrepute, it is interesting to note the diminishing number of arguments in the mainstream media in defence of sustaining the dysfunctional Union while desperate attempts to denigrate the First Minister, recently for proudly representing the interests of Scotland at an international forum, are increasing.

The faux outrage expressed over COP27 travel costs and our modest contribution to providing financial support (hopefully provoking greater consideration among wealthy countries in the northern hemisphere of the detrimental economic circumstances imposed on poor countries in the southern hemisphere) smacks not only of rank hypocrisy but of more Conservative propaganda.

Those who genuinely advocate persisting with the constitutional status quo might possibly advance some of their economic arguments if they could start being honest about the enormous cost to Scotland’s economy of Brexit and the tens of billions of pounds wasted during the pandemic due to poor UK Government decision-making, cronyism and fraud. In the interim, most objective voters will conclude that relatively trivial attacks on Nicola Sturgeon, generally respected as an intelligent politician and principled statesperson both in Scotland and internationally, simply serve to demonstrate that the time for Scotland to take control of its own destiny has now arrived.

Stan Grodynski

Longniddry, East Lothian

YOU always know the Tories are in trouble in Scotland when folk you know don’t say a lot but won’t look you in the eye. I probably could have said the same about Labour supporters a few years ago, but I can’t find any of them anymore.

Congratulations to the SNP for throwing the Supreme Court issue at them right now. The Brit establishment is in contortions on it. It can’t give a coherent or honest answer, and every time they try to evade the issue, the support for democracy and Scottish independence grows – all round the world.

READ MORE: Qatar World Cup ambassador calls homosexuality 'damage in the mind'

Of course, we have the usual moaning from the usual moaners. Independence supporters – or are they?

How convenient for the Brit establishment that they have a tame pink Tory cadre ready to take over if they can eventually bring the Tories down.

And it somehow entertains an illusion that Scotland will swing in behind Labour at a General Election. “Deluded” is the word, I think.

I am rather more concerned with the probable media coverage of the tiddly-widdly meaningless wee LibDems – the refuge of unhappy Tory voters who feel obliged to vote (for anybody but SNP or Labour).

Dave McEwan

Hill Sandbank, Argyll