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‘Don’t politicise sport’ France’s Macron urges ahead of Qatar World Cup

French President Emmanuel Macron waded into the controversy around Qatar's hosting of the World Cup, insisting sport should not be politicised.

'Don't politicise sport' France's Macron urges ahead of Qatar World Cup
The French team arrives in Doha ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup football tournament. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

“I think we must not politicise sport,” said Macron, whose national team are defending the title they won in Russia in 2018.

The 2022 World Cup, which kicks off on Sunday, has been dogged by controversy, including over Qatar’s alleged human rights abuses, suppression of dissent, mistreatment of foreign workers and persecution of LGBTQ people.

“These questions must be addressed when hosting the event is decided,” he told reporters in Bangkok, where he is attending a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

French football captain Hugo Lloris has said he will not join other European captains in wearing an anti-discrimination armband during the tournament, saying he wanted to “show respect” to Qatar, where homosexuality
is illegal.

READ ALSO French team captain will not wear anti-discrimination armband at World Cup

Macron, who will go to Qatar if France reach the semi-finals, said it was “a very bad idea to politicise sport”, noting that France will host the Olympic Games in 2024.

The president travelled to Russia in 2018 to see Lloris lift France’s second World Cup title with a 4-2 win in the final over Croatia.

France begin their defence of the World Cup trophy against Australia on Tuesday before also playing Denmark and Tunisia.

The Danes have sought to take a stand on Qatar’s rights record, proposing to wear pro-human rights training shirts – until the idea was shot down by FIFA.

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POLITICS

UK police arrest man over 2021 deaths of 27 people in Channel tragedy

UK police on Tuesday arrested a man suspected of playing a "key role" in the deaths of at least 27 people who drowned attempting to cross the Channel in a dinghy last November.

UK police arrest man over 2021 deaths of 27 people in Channel tragedy

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said 32-year-old Harem Ahmed Abwbaker was arrested at an address near Cheltenham, southwest England.

He is suspected of being “a member of the organised crime group who conspired to transport the migrants to the UK in a small boat”.

NCA investigators are working with the French authorities to track down those responsible for the tragedy.

French prosecutors have so far charged 10 people for their alleged role in the disaster on November 24 last year.

It was the worst accident in the Channel since the narrow strait became a key route for people from Africa, the Middle East and Asia attempting to reach England from France.

The vessel sank after leaving the French coast, leading to the death of all but two of those aboard. Four people remain missing.

The suspect will appear before London’s Westminster Magistrates Court on Wednesday, where extradition proceedings to France will commence.

READ ALSO What is France doing to prevent small-boat crossings of the Channel?

Charges faced there include the French equivalent of manslaughter and facilitating illegal immigration.

“This is a significant arrest and comes as part of extensive inquiries into the events leading to these tragic deaths in the Channel,” said NCA deputy director Craig Turner.

“The individual detained today is suspected of having played a key role in the manslaughter of those who died.

“Working closely with our French partners we are determined to do all we can to get justice for the families of those whose lives were lost,” he added.

Among the 27 – aged seven to 47 – were 16 Iraqi Kurds, four Afghans, three Ethiopians, one Somali, one Egyptian and one Vietnamese.

Tributes and demonstrations took place on Thursday for the 27 victims of the tragedy that France’s interior minister admitted should have been prevented.

Several boats packed with rescuers and local elected figures took to sea off the coast of Dunkirk to mark the anniversary.

“It’s a tragedy that we were expecting and there will probably be others,” said the head of the local branch of the SNSM lifeboat service, Alain Ledaguenel.

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