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Germany official Bierhoff joins criticism of Qatar on gay rights

BERLIN – Oliver Bierhoff, the technical director of the German football team, said on Saturday that World Cup host Qatar's "treatment of homosexuals is absolutely unacceptable".

In the build up to the World Cup, which kicks off on 21 November, Qatar's human rights record has come under mounting criticism.

Bierhoff, a World Cup runner up in 2002 who will be with the German team at the finals, said he was unhappy that homosexuality is illegal in the Gulf state.

This "does not correspond in any way to my convictions", he said in an interview with the Funke group of German regional dailies.

"What criteria does FIFA actually use to award a World Cup?" Bierhoff asked.

"The awarding of a tournament is the most powerful weapon to push for the necessary changes, he said, but those changes "must occur before the choice of the country and not after, otherwise we have no more means of pressure."

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He said the team wants to showcase for the values of modern Germany, beyond soccer.

"I think it is globally good that we continue to talk about these themes outside the sports field, to raise awareness," he said.

World Cup organisers have been struggling to convince lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer fans among the 1.4 million expected at the World Cup that they will be safe.

Concerns were raised at the FIFA Congress in Doha in March. The world body says that LGBTQ symbols will be allowed in any stadium, while Qatari authorities have appealed for outsiders to respect their "conservative" culture.

Artmotion S.Africa

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