The soccer player turned commentator has been at the forefront of the BBC’s World Cup coverage in Qatar over recent weeks.
Speaking to the “News Agents” podcast, Lineker discussed with host Emily Maitlis why Qatar was ever permitted to host the 2022 World Cup in the first place.
He said: “We pointed facts out at the beginning of the tournament; those facts remain. So, lots of people were killed doing the stadiums. Yes, the stadiums are extraordinary, but at a great price. Homophobia is an issue here, women’s rights are a little bit of an issue here.”
“For me it was always really more about the corruption side of it because, as I said previously, I think pretty much every country, including our own, has got issues,” he continued. “And we’re off to America in four years’ time, with Canada and Mexico, but obviously America’s an extraordinarily racist country.”
Lineker added this point while indicating there are “always issues” with host countries – but noted that with Qatar it was “more the fact that we just pointed out a few facts and particularly the aspect of it being so corrupt”.
He continued: “They said it was going to be summer and it was in the winter. I don’t think anything’s particularly changed but it’s been a cracking tournament but that’s football; football is a wonderful sport.”
Lineker has already faced backlash from Qatar for discussing the country’s human rights record on air instead of showing the opening ceremony on the BBC.
The head of Qatar’s World Cup committee Hassan Al-Thawadi subsequently claimed the BBC’s coverage was “very racist”. But, speaking to “News Agents,” Lineker questioned whether people high up in Qatar even watched the BBC coverage in the first place. He also denied there was any discussion with Qatari authorities about his discussion of the country’s controversies.
He said: “There was one bit where the guy went on a radio station back home, I think he’s one of the organizers, and said he tried to reach out to me time and time again to get an interview and that, frankly, wasn’t true at all, neither to myself nor my agent. And then he said it was through the BBC and the BBC have no record of it whatsoever.”