David Beckham is facing further criticism for his role as an ambassador for Qatar after claiming the World Cup would be a platform for progress, inclusivity and tolerance.
Beckham, who is reported to be receiving £150m from the Qataris, offered his upbeat assessment in a video message played to guests at the Supreme Committee’s “Generation Amazing” youth festival in Doha, where he also told guests that “today is your day to dream”.
The issue of workers’ and LGBTQ+ rights continues to be a theme in the buildup to this World Cup, along with questions over how much Qatar has changed since being awarded the tournament in 2010. However Beckham appeared in no doubt as to how much progress the country had made.
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“Qatar dreamed of bringing the World Cup to a place that it had never been before, but that it wouldn’t be enough just to achieve things on the pitch,” he said. “The pitch would be a platform for progress.”
He also said: “Dreams can come true. That is why you are here. You share Generation Amazing’s twin passions for the game of football and for making the world a more tolerant and inclusive place.”
Beckham has been increasingly criticised by LGBTQ+ groups, with Di Cunningham, co-founder of the Three Lions Pride group, last week saying he should no longer be considered a great ally because of his paid ambassador role.
However Beckham said Qatar and its ambassadors were changing lives for the better. “Every one of the great players I was lucky enough to play with started exactly the same way,” he said. “In a back garden, park, or a street outside their home with just a ball and an imagination that they dared to let run wild.
“Almost two decades ago a small group of football lovers from Qatar had an equally fantastic dream: that they could bring the greatest football show on earth to their home country and to the Middle East for the very first time.
“And now we are here. Because when dreams are harnessed and mixed with dedication and hard work, they are no longer dreams. They become reality.”
He added: “I want to say to all of you, ‘today is your day to dream’. Because there are no limits to what you and your teammates can achieve in our beautiful game.
“Even before this festival kicks off, more than a million lives have been touched to create an inspirational global community of coaches, educators and new young leaders. It all began as a dream. That is now yours. So please be inspired and pass it on.”