Gary Lineker challenges Qatar chief’s criticism of BBC’s World Cup coverage

Gary Lineker has denied claims from Qatar World Cup chief Hassan Al-Thawadi that he failed to “engage” with the host country before the start of the tournament.

In an interview with TalkSport, Al-Thawadi criticised Lineker and the BBC for their coverage of the World Cup, which he claims has not presented a “balanced view” of Qatar.

The BBC did not cover the opening ceremony of the World Cup and Lineker instead led a discussion around off-field concerns, including Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers and the country’s discriminatory LGBTQ+ laws.

Al-Thawadi, who is the head of the Qatar World Cup’s delivery committee, claimed that Lineker did not respond to invitations from organisers when they requested the opportunity to address those concerns before the tournament.

Lineker, however, took to Twitter and refuted those claims - insisting he had not heard from Qatar before the World Cup.

The former England striker and BBC presenter responded to a clip of Al-Thawadi’s interview and said: “Well, this is news to me. Neither my agent nor myself received any request to engage with anyone involved with Qatar 2022. I have my weaknesses, but I’m not that rude. Very odd.”

Al-Thawadi had told TalkSport that was disappointed to not have the chance to discuss what he said were “misconceptions and stereotypes” around Qatar.

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“He never bothered to engage,” Al-Thawadi said. “We reached out many times. The latest was in February, we reached out three or four times, requesting specifically to sit down with Gary to say, ‘We respect your position, give us the opportunity to put our case in front’.

“At least hear us out. If you don’t agree then, that’s fine, that’s your decision, and that’s your judgement. But we never got the chance. I was disappointed there was never the desire to listen to our part of the story.”

On the BBC’s coverage of the opening match of the tournament between Qatar and Ecuador, which barely mentioned the football in comaparson to a wide-ranging discussion on human rights in Qatar, Al-Thawadi claimed Qatar had been treated differently to other tournament hosts.

“It should be about football,” he said. “The way the BBC covered the opening ceremony is not about football.

“The way Gary Lineker took three minutes… they never bothered to do that with any other tournament. They never bothered to listen to the other side or at least present a balanced view to be able to sit down and move forward.

“There are definitely agendas that are presented very clearly that are beyond football. I want it to be about football and the fans. We want to create a blueprint for how tournaments can really be transformative across many fronts.”