Football legend David Beckham is facing a huge backlash for gushing about Qatar in a slick new video to promote the despotic Middle Eastern state, after calling it ‘perfection’ – even though it remains illegal to be gay and women still need permission to study or marry in the Gulf state – ahead of the World Cup this winter.
In a video set against the backdrop of the capital city Doha, the former England captain – a Unicef ambassador who says that he identifies as a feminist – calls Qatar an ‘incredible place to spend a few days’ as he unveils his £10million deal to be the face of the Islamic nation.
Beckham, 47, is seen sailing on a boat, riding a motorbike and visiting a spice market before taking selfies with locals, visiting a bazaar and sitting down for food with a group of men dressed in traditional Arab clothing.
In a voiceover to the video, the father of four tells viewers that he cannot wait to bring his children to the country, adding: ‘Qatar really is an incredible place to spend a few days on a stopover. The modern and traditional fuse create something really special.
‘It’s one of the best spice markets that I have ever been to. This will go down as one of my favourite mornings. This is perfection, I cannot wait to bring my children back.’
Until now, Beckham has not acknowledged the controversial £10million contract to be the face of the World Cup and the Gulf state, where gay people are persecuted and misogyny is rife. It is still illegal for people to be gay there and women face discrimination from a male guardianship system that forces them to seek approval to marry, study or travel. More than 6,500 migrant workers have died there while building the infrastructure for the tournament, the Guardian, citing official figures, has reported.
The video has now sparked a furious backlash led by human rights campaigners Amnesty International. Speaking exclusively to MailOnline tonight, its UK branch accused Beckham of failing ‘yet again’ to mention the country’s ‘appalling’ treatment of minorities and migrant workers – and urged the former England captain to use his ‘global fame and status’ to help bring the country to account.
Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s Head of Priority Campaigns, said: ‘This is just the latest slick and positive video about Qatar that David Beckham has put his face to, and yet again there’s no mention of the county’s appalling human rights record.
‘Beckham’s global fame and status are PR gold for Qatar’s image, but he should be using that same unique profile to call on FIFA and the Qatari authorities to properly remedy the terrible abuses that tens of thousands of migrant workers have faced in building the infrastructure to deliver the World Cup. ‘Beckham has said he hoped football would prove a force for good in Qatar. At the moment it seems his involvement is good news for Qatar’s tourist industry, not for human rights.’
Twitter users also blasted his decision to promote ‘backward’ Qatar and accusing ‘unprincipled’ Beckham of ‘selling his soul’ and ‘doing it for the money’.
Domestic abuse campaigner David Challen thundered: ‘Sportswashing is inherently wrong. Those who promote nations with horrific human rights records actively silence those who are discriminated against, harmed and killed, all for more money. Why does @UNICEF continue to support David Beckham making millions from promoting Qatar??’.
Another person shared a series of images under the caption ‘A tale of David Beckham’s life lasting 7 short years, and £10 million quid’ which showed Beckham promoting LGBT rights on his Instagram page, a screengrab of a Wikipedia entry about gay and women’s rights in Qatar – then news of Beckham’s £10million deal with the despotism.
The former footballer has previously insisted that his involvement with Qatar provides the opportunity to bring about change from within and to ‘use football as a force for good’. MailOnline has approached his representatives for comment.
David Beckham is seen riding a motorbike through Doha in the promotional video
The former England captain is pictured sailing a boat against the backdrop of Qatar’s capital Doha
Beckham shakes hand with a vendor in a bazaar in Doha, Qatar’s capital city
Beckham is seen sitting down for a feast in the desert with men dressed in traditional Arab clothing
Domestic abuse campaigner David Challen thundered: ‘Sportswashing is inherently wrong. Those who promote nations with horrific human rights records actively silence those who are discriminated against, harmed and killed, all for more money. Why does @UNICEF continue to support David Beckham making millions from promoting Qatar??’
The video has sparked a backlash, with Twitter users blasting his decision to promote ‘backward’ Qatar and accusing ‘unprincipled’ Beckham of ‘doing it for the money’. Another person shared a series of images under the caption ‘A tale of David Beckham’s life lasting 7 short years, and £10 million quid’ which showed Beckham promoting LGBT rights on his Instagram page, a screengrab of a Wikipedia entry about gay rights and women’s rights in Qatar, then news of Beckham’s £10million deal with the Middle Eastern despotism
Gay magazine Attitude accused Beckham of hypocrisy after he praised Blackpool’s Jake Daniels for coming out earlier this year.
In a withering Instagram post, Attitude – on whose cover the ex-footballer famously appeared in 2002 – wrote: ‘David Beckham continues to keep his money just about as far as possible from where his mouth is when it comes to the LGBTQ community.’
Chairman of Qatar Tourism and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said: ‘It has been a pleasure to welcome David to Qatar, where he has immersed himself in the culture and experienced first-hand the warm hospitality of the people.
‘I encourage the millions who transit through Qatar every year to follow in David’s footsteps and create their own exciting adventure and memories.
‘We have something for everyone at incredible value, whether it’s sun, sea, sand, rich heritage and culture, surprising nature, or a modern and fun city break.’
The Mail on Sunday revealed Beckham’s deal with Qatar last February, which sparked fury from critics. Amnesty said at the time: ‘We would urge him to learn about the deeply concerning human rights situation in Qatar and be prepared to speak out about it.’
The Mail on Sunday revealed Beckham’s deal with Qatar last February, which sparked fury from critics
Beckham pictured in the video as he promotes Qatar despite its human rights record
Beckham controversially signed a £10million deal to promote Qatar ahead of the World Cup
Beckham is pictured clinking coffee cups with a woman wearing a headscarf in Qatar
Those close to Beckham say he was left ‘distraught and mortified’ when he was condemned over the controversial deal. They told the Mail: ‘It’s not surprising that David Beckham wants to be involved in such a major football event, but we would urge him to learn about the deeply concerning human rights situation in Qatar and be prepared to speak about it.
‘Qatar’s human rights record is troubling, from the country’s longstanding mistreatment of migrant workers, to its curbs on free speech and the criminalisation of same-sex relations.
‘David Beckham should use his unique worldwide profile to keep the world’s focus on the human rights issues surrounding the matches, and not just play on the pitch.’
The FIFA World Cup runs from November 21 to December 18 and is the first held in the Arab world.
Beckham was widely praised for helping to tackle the stigma suffered by gay sportsmen and women by agreeing to appear on the cover of Attitude in 2002.