Astralian football legend Tim Cahill was dragged away from an interview after being asked about the Socceroos protesting Qatar’s human rights abuses.
Cahill – Australia’s greatest men’s goal scorer – joined the team in an official capacity as head of delegation, and was around the Aussie squad throughout its tremendous run to the round of 16.
But he also works in Qatar as the chief sports officer at Aspire Academy, and has been paid to help promote the FIFA World Cup.
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The decision to allow Qatar to host the biggest sporting event in the world has been controversial since it was announced, for a number of reasons.
One of the big issues is the human rights abuses in the nation, which include the outlawing of homosexuality and the fact Muslims can be sentenced to the death penalty if they are found to be practicing it.
Before traveling to Qatar, the Socceroos released a video featuring a number of their stars denouncing the human rights abuses in the gulf state.
While being interviewed by an SBS News journalist, Cahill was asked about that video and whether he supported the stance.
But before he had a chance to answer, a woman cut the interview short and dragged the Socceroos great away. Cahill appeared unwilling to answer the question before exiting.
The SBS journalist conducting the interview – Ben Lewis – on Monday posted the video to Twitter along with an explanation of what had occurred.
“Before the World Cup began, I managed to secure a brief interview with (Cahill),” Lewis said.
“He happily answered my first two questions. This is what happened when I asked Australia’s head of delegation if he supported the Socceroos’ human rights video.
“The female voice you hear was a PR rep working for the event sponsor interjecting. We were told by Football Australia that Cahill would be happy to speak later in the week and he ‘wasn’t trying to avoid answering questions’. We mentioned that fact in our story that day.
“He was scheduled to do a press conference later that week. But it was canceled at short notice due to scheduling issues. We asked repeatedly to see if a new time could be found, to no avail.
“Anyway, the interview/presser sadly never happened. After the Socceroos made (the round of 16), Cahill released a self-shot video message talking about the result. We didn’t use it, given the many requests we had made to speak with him were rebuffed.
“We were told that when games started, he wanted the focus to be on the current players – totally fair.
“Now Australia’s brilliant run has ended, we’d still love to hear his views on working for Qatar’s organizing committee and the Socceroos’ stance on human rights issues.”
It’s not the first time questions have been raised about Qatar’s handling of journalists asking tricky questions about the country’s human rights record.
Before the World Cup began, video emerged of a television journalist being shut down mid-shoot by a number of officials.
Fans have also been barred from showing any rainbows or pride symbols inside stadiums during games, although that stance has been policed inconsistently.
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