Johnson says England has ‘tough’ World Cup group after invitation to Qatar

·3 min read

Boris Johnson said England has a “tough group” after he was invited to attend the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, used a bilateral discussion with the Prime Minister to invite the British leader to travel to watch the winter global football competition in the Middle East.

England has been drawn in the same group as Iran, the US and the winner of the play-offs between Wales and either Scotland or Ukraine.

Prime Minister Boris Boris Johnson was invited to attend the Qatar World Cup by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was invited to attend the Qatar World Cup by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (Matt Dunham/PA)

The World Cup, which was shifted to November and December due to Qatar experiencing hot weather during the summer months when the Fifa competition is traditionally held, has been dogged by human rights controversies in relation to migrant worker abuses during the construction of stadiums in the country.

Speaking in Downing Street, the Qatari leader said it is a “special year” for his country as host nation.

He said: “I invite the Prime Minister to come and see the World Cup.

“England have a very strong young team.”

The Prime Minister replied: “Yes. Well, we have got a tough group.”

The Qatari leader said: “A very interesting group. And also, on top, we might have Scotland and Wales as well.”

The invitation came on the day England manager Gareth Southgate named his penultimate squad before the World Cup as his side gears up to play four Nations League matches.

Gareth Southgate's England team have earned their place at the World Cup in Qatar
Gareth Southgate’s England team have earned their place at the World Cup in Qatar (Adam Davy/PA)

In his opening speech welcoming the Emir to London, Mr Johnson said the two leaders will be working together on security, climate change and “tackling the economic problems of the world” as he praised Qatar’s efforts during the Western evacuation from Afghanistan.

Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s head of priority campaigns, said: “Apart from watching the football we’d like to see the Prime Minister using his time at the World Cup to raise the need for Qatar to ensure there’s a lasting human rights legacy from this tournament.

“Thousands of migrant workers have been exploited and many have tragically died to make the World Cup possible, so everyone with influence – from Fifa, to the sponsors, the players and of course political leaders – ought to be pushing for lasting labour reforms in Qatar.

“The World Cup is set to generate 6 billion dollars (£4.8 billion) in revenue for Fifa, and we’ve called on Fifa to set aside at least 440 million dollars (£350 million) for a workers’ compensation fund for the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who’ve suffered human rights abuses in Qatar in these past years.”

Downing Street said no decision has been made on whether the Prime Minister will travel to Qatar for the World Cup.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman, asked if he knows if Mr Johnson plans to attend, said: “I don’t at the moment.

“I don’t think we’ve set any plans that far ahead with regards to foreign travel. We would have to consider what else was happening at that moment.”

No 10 said the two leaders agreed an “initial £10 billion investment into the UK over five years” during their talks.