David Beckham has finally broken his silence over the criticism levelled at him after he signed up to be an ambassador for World Cup host Qatar, reported to be worth £100 million.
The decision to host the World Cup in Qatar was met with a backlash due to the country’s human rights issues, particularly with regards to migrant workers and LGBTQ+ community.
Last month, comedian Joe Lycett publicly criticised the former England captain for accepting the role and issued him with an ultimatum ahead of the start of the football tournament.
In a video posted on social media, Joe claimed that if David pulled out of the deal he would donate £10K of his own money to charities supporting queer people – but if he didn’t, the comic would shred the money instead.
The stand-up comic later released a video in which he said the former footballer had failed to respond and appeared to show him shredding the cash but he eventually revealed it was a hoax and he had already donated the money to LGBTQ+ charities.
In a special edition of Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back, which aired on Channel 4 on Thursday, the comedian read out a statement provided by David’s reps in which he said he understands there are “different and strongly held views about engagement in the Middle East”.
A spokesperson for the former footballer said he sees it as “positive” that debate about “key issues” has been “stimulated” by the contest being held in the country.
The full statement reads: “David has been involved in a number of World Cups and other major international tournaments both as a player and an ambassador and he’s always believed that sport has the power to be a force for good in the world.
“Football, the most popular sport globally, has a genuine ability to bring people together and make a real contribution to communities.
“We understand that there are different and strongly held views about engagement in the Middle East but see it as positive that debate about the key issues has been stimulated directly by the first World Cup being held in the region.
“We hope that these conversations will lead to greater understanding and empathy towards all people and that progress will be achieved.”
Joe isn’t the only public figure to have called out David for his Qatar deal, with former Great British Bake Off star John Whaite stating:“I think it’s disgusting, he’s cheapening himself.”
Meanwhile, pop singer Will Young said: “The decision to take the alleged £150 million over 15 years is greedy enough, the burying of your head in the sand from you, your team and your advisers is repellent and cowardice personified.”
Elsewhere in Joe Lycett Vs David Beckham: A Got Your Back Special, the comedian spoke to Naser Mohamed, who claims to be the first and only openly gay Qatari.
Naser told Joe: “I was cut off by my family and the few friends I have can’t publicly be my friends.”
He added: “I know that the LGBT issues in Qatar are awful, I know that they’re life-threatening.”
In the programme Joe also took aim at McDonald’s and Budweiser, who have both sponsored the tournament, but said they had declined to comment.