Denmark goes to World Cup, but officials stay home
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A vocal critic of World Cup host Qatar, Denmark has been told to leave its pro-human rights jerseys at home, and now its government and royal family have said they'll stay home too.
The team on Tuesday flew to the emirate, where the players' symbolic statements and gestures will be closely scrutinised by human rights activists and FIFA officials.
Denmark has been one of the most vocal opponents of Qatar's hosting of the tournament due to its human rights record. FIFA last week denied the Scandinavian country's request to wear training shirts emblazoned with a human rights message.
Over the weekend, the Danish government announced that no ministers nor the Danish ambassador would attend the opening ceremony or any matches.
The official reason given was that Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen currently heads an interim government following her November 1 election victory and is busy with negotiations to form a new cabinet.
"The focus is currently on forming a new government. In the meantime, Denmark will not be officially represented at the World Cup in Qatar," Ane Halsboe-Jorgensen, Denmark's sports minister, told news agency Ritzau.
Newspaper Berlingske said the explanation was a convenient excuse for the government, noting that "with less than a week to the opening match, the prime minister was saved in the 11th hour by the long negotiations. Phew."
The royal family has also passed on the event, with 54-year-old Crown Prince Frederik, a staunch fan of the Red and Whites, announcing that he would align himself with the government's decision and stay home.
"The national team has my full support, wherever they play in the world. This time I'm looking forward to cheering on the team from home," he said in a post to Instagram on Monday after meeting with the Danish players.
The Danish Football Association (DBU) has been critical since Qatar was first chosen to host the World Cup in 2010, and has been at the forefront in recent months by demanding more rights for migrant workers and the LGBT+ community in the emirate.
But as the tournament approaches, the Euro semi-finalists said they intended to concentrate on their game.
The team will now "focus on football", coach Kasper Hjulmand told reporters Monday.
"For us our expectations are that we land and we do our job," he said.
Last week, FIFA said Denmark would not be allowed to wear jerseys bearing the message "Human Rights for All" during training sessions in Qatar.
"We won't be wearing that jersey at all," Jakob Jensen, chief executive of the Danish Football Association (DBU) confirmed to AFP on Monday.
Shirt with faded logo
Jensen acknowledged that FIFA's decision had followed "standard procedure", but added the federation believed the message "was not very political".
"The players are here to play football, they're dreaming of winning the World Cup, they should be able to focus on playing," Jensen said.
However, the federation itself is not treating the event as usual.
In early October, the DBU announced that Danish players' families would not be attending the event, with a spokesman saying it didn't "want Qatar to profit from the visits."
The country's jerseys are also out of the ordinary with sportswear maker Hummel opting for a "toned down" kit with its logo and the national badge barely visible.
"We don't wish to be visible during a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives," the company said in September, referring to reports of casualties -- disputed by Doha -- among migrant labourers working on Qatar's mega infrastructure projects.
Jensen said that although the training shirt had been rejected, the federation was engaged in "critical dialogue" with Qatari authorities and FIFA.
While Dutch players are intending to meet with migrant workers, most teams, including critical ones such as Australia, now have said they aim to focus on the games.