Denmark will wear a “toned down” kit at this year’s World Cup in protest of Qatar’s human rights record, sportswear maker Hummel said on Wednesday, setting off a furious response from the Gulf state.
Qatar’s organising committee accused Hummel of “trivialising” the country’s efforts to improve conditions for migrant workers and called on the Danish federation to intervene.
The logo of the Danish sportswear brand and the Danish national badge are both barely visible on the shirts designed for the World Cup that starts on November 20.
Several competing nations and rights groups have criticised Qatar’s rights record and Fifa for allowing the event to be held in the conservative Muslim state where homosexuality is illegal.
Hummel said the new jerseys were “a protest against Qatar and its human rights record,” Hummel wrote in a post on Instagram.
“We don’t wish to be visible during a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives,” the company said in an Instagram post that referred to reports of casualties among migrant labourers working on Qatar’s mega infrastructure projects.
“We support the Danish national team all the way, but that isn’t the same as supporting Qatar as a host nation.”
In addition to the main red strip and a second jersey in white, a black and grey third strip was a sign of “mourning”, the kit company said.
Denmark’s training jerseys will carry “critical messages” after the two sponsors agreed to have their logos replaced.
Qatar’s World Cup organisers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, gave a stern response that highlighted “significant reforms to the labour system” to protect workers and “ensuring improved living conditions for them.”
The committee added that there has been “robust and transparent dialogue” with the Danish federation, the DBU, that had led to “a better understanding of the progress made”.
“We dispute Hummel’s claim that this tournament has cost thousands of people their lives. Furthermore, we whole-heartedly reject the trivialising (of) our genuine commitment to protect the health and safety of the 30,000 workers who built Fifa World Cup stadiums and other tournament projects.”
Qatar says that only three labourers died in work-related accidents during the construction of the eight stadiums in the Doha region. It has been accused of under reporting deaths on wider construction however.
The committee said Qatar’s reforms had been “recognised” by some international human rights groups “as a model that has accelerated progress and improved lives”.
“Like every country, progress on these issues is a journey without a finish line, and Qatar is committed to that journey,” said the statement.
“We urge the DBU to accurately convey the outcome of their extensive communication and work with the Supreme Committee, and to ensure that this is accurately communicated to their partners at Hummel.”
Qatar has also been criticised for its treatment of the LGBTQ community.
England captain Harry Kane has said he will wear a “OneLove” armband during the World Cup as part of a Dutch campaign to take a stand against discrimination.
France, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Wales and Switzerland are also supporting the campaign.