David Beckham Responds Directly To Criticism Over Qatar Ambassadorship At World Cup

The former footballer faced a backlash for signing a deal to be an ambassador for the country during the 2022 tournament due to its human rights record.
David Beckham attends the Netflix Beckham UK premiere
David Beckham attends the Netflix Beckham UK premiere
Mike Marsland via Getty Images

David Beckham has spoken out about the criticism levelled at him last year for accepting an ambassador role for Qatar during last year’s World Cup.

The decision to hold the football tournament in Qatar was met with a backlash at the time due to the country’s human rights issues, particularly with regards to migrant workers and the LGBTQ+ community.

In the lead-up to the event, David came under fire after signing a deal – reported to have been worth £100 million – for his ambassadorship role.

While David’s reps issued a statement shortly after the controversy, he was asked directly about it during a red carpet appearance at the UK premiere of his new Netflix documentary series – titled Beckham – on Tuesday.

According to Sky News, he was asked if he had done his homework about what life is like for LGBTQ+ people in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

“I always do that,” he insisted. “Let the football do the talking, it was a great tournament, a lot of people were happy.

“I had a lot of conversations with the LGBTQ community when I was there. They said they had enjoyed the games and they felt it was the safest World Cup they’d had for a long time, it was an important competition and one I was proud to be a part of.”

An advertisement board featuring Qatar Ambassador David Beckham during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
An advertisement board featuring Qatar Ambassador David Beckham during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
Alex Pantling via Getty Images

He continued: “Once we were there we knew that there was going to be people that spoke about it a little bit more.

“I’ve always said that football is a game that should be shared around the world. This was an opportunity for the Arab world to get a World Cup.”

Last year, comedian Joe Lycett publicly called out the former England captain for accepting the ambassadorship role and, issued him with an ultimatum ahead of the start of the football tournament.

In a video posted on social media, Joe claimed that if David pulled out of the deal he would donate £10K of his own money to charities supporting queer people – but if he didn’t, the comic would shred the money instead.

The stand-up comedian later released a video after the former footballer failed to respond, in which appeared shred the cash. However, he eventually revealed the video was a hoax, and he’d already donated the money to LGBTQ+ charities.

In a special Channel 4 show documenting Joe’s stunt, David’s reps issued a statement insisting he understood there are “different and strongly held views about engagement in the Middle East”.

The full statement read: “David has been involved in a number of World Cups and other major international tournaments both as a player and an ambassador and he’s always believed that sport has the power to be a force for good in the world.

“Football, the most popular sport globally, has a genuine ability to bring people together and make a real contribution to communities.

“We understand that there are different and strongly held views about engagement in the Middle East but see it as positive that debate about the key issues has been stimulated directly by the first World Cup being held in the region.

“We hope that these conversations will lead to greater understanding and empathy towards all people and that progress will be achieved.”


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