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Gary Lineker issues furious response to "not bothered" blast from Qatar World Cup chief

Mirror 28/11/2022 Alan Smith

Gary Lineker has rejected a claim from the head of Qatar's Supreme Committee that he refused to engage with the World Cup hosts regarding human rights issues.

Hassan Al Thawadi said that Lineker, who is leading the BBC ’s coverage of the tournament in Doha, ignored invitations to discuss problems with the organisers.

In an interview with talkSPORT, the Qatar Supreme Committee's secretary general also described comments made about Iran’s football by BBC pundit Jurgen Klinsmann as “racist.” “Gary never bothered to engage and we reached out many times,” Al Thawadi said, adding: “There was never a desire to listen to our part of the story.”

In response, Lineker said on Twitter : “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.”

Lineker said before the tournament that he would attempt to shed a light on the Gulf state’s appalling human rights record and would not be muzzled by the BBC. But Al Thawadi claimed that he and ITV pundit Roy Keane, among others, undermine any points they make because they did not engage directly with Qataris before the tournament started.

“An important component about that is breaking down misconceptions and stereotypes that individuals have – which suggests they should have interaction," Al Thawadi said.

“The reason being as a result of it’s a platform that provides you the chance to interact. Folks like Roy [Keane] and Gary [Lineker], or whoever else, there was no engagement.

Hassan Al Thawadi is Secretary General of the World Cup organising committee © Darko Bandic/AP/REX/Shutterstock Hassan Al Thawadi is Secretary General of the World Cup organising committee

“For me, Gary Lineker, I regarded him rising [growing] up. After I was in Sheffield, I watched ‘They Assume [Think] It’s All Over’. I used to like it, the banter, the sense of humour. So it was very disappointing that he by no means bothered to interact. We reached out in many instances.

"The newest was in February, we reached out in three or four instances, requesting particularly to sit down down with Gary to say, ‘We respect your place, give us the chance to plead our case. At the least hear us out.'"

Klinsmann has also responded to accusations that his comments, in which he referred to Iran’s footballing “culture”, were racially motivated following backlash spearheaded by Carlos Queiroz, the Iran head coach.

"My comments on the Wales v Iran game were purely football related," Klinsmann said. "Unfortunately, this was taken out of a footballing context. I have many Iranian friends and was always full of compliments for their people, culture, and history. I wish them only the best for the tournament."

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