French President Emmanuel Macron defended his decision to go to Qatar should France advance to the World Cup semifinals on their path to defending their title in the Gulf country.
Macron, who was in Bangkok, said Thursday, “sports should not be politicized.”
He added that issues about Qatar’s human rights record and the environment were “questions you have to ask yourself when you award the event.”
Qatar won the hosting rights for this year’s World Cup in 2010. Due to the extreme heat during the summer, the tournament was moved to the winter months for the first time. However, the country has come under scrutiny for how it won the rights, the condition of the workers building the stadiums over the last 12 years, free speech issues and alleged persecution of LGBTQ people.
On Monday, the Élysée Palace said Macron will go to the Qatar if the country’s national team makes it to the semifinals, specifying the French president “wrote them a message” to this effect.
The city of Paris said it would not have certain zones to broadcast World Cup matches on giant screens in response to Qatar’s human rights record.
France’s title defense begins in the next few days. The squad is in Group D with Australia, Denmark and Tunisia.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.