Hummel jersey protest, Denmark, Qatar, response, migrant workers, Iran protest, Sardar Azmoun, latest, updates

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Denmark will wear a “toned down” kit at this year’s World Cup in protest at Qatar’s human rights record, sportswear maker Hummel said 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.

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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.

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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 wholeheartedly 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.”

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The protests that have erupted in Iran are shadowing the national football team’s bid for a breakthrough at the World Cup, with social media posts that mysteriously disappear, black outfits worn during anthems and former legends weighing in.

Team Melli are preparing to battle in a competitive and also politically loaded Group B in Qatar, where they will face the United States, England and Wales in a bid to reach the knockout rounds for the first time.

But the protests that have shaken Iran since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini following her arrest by the notorious morality police have raised uncomfortable questions for the team, who are hugely influential in a football-mad country.

There has been immense scrutiny of the team’s star forward Sardar Azmoun, who plays in the German Bundesliga for Bayer Leverkusen.

He initially appeared to allege a gag order on the team speaking out and condemning the authorities’ deadly crackdown but he then stepped back.

Echoes of the protests reached Iran’s pre-World Cup friendly match against Senegal in Vienna on Tuesday, when protesters outside the stadium shouted slogans against the Islamic republic and chanted the names of Karimi and Azmoun.

Azmoun began the game on the bench, fuelling rumours he may have been sidelined.

But he appeared in the second half, and scored with a neatly taken header to the pleasure of Iran’s newly rehired Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz.

Azmoun’s celebrations were muted and the entire team had remained wrapped in their black tracksuits during the anthems rather than exposing the national strip.

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Earlier in the week, Iranian football bloggers took screenshots of an Instagram post from Azmoun saying that because of “restrictive rules on the Team Melli, I could not say anything”.

But he added that he could not stay silent due to the crackdown against the protests that activists say has killed over 75 people.

“This will never be erased from our consciousness. Shame on you!” he wrote.

The post was deleted and the entire content of the Instagram account, followed by some five million people, disappeared for days.

Azmoun’s German club also backed him.

Its official Twitter account quoted director Simon Rolfes as saying. “Of course we support Sardar’s solidarity with the women of Iran.”

After the Senegal match, Azmoun’s Instagram account was restored, and he appeared to apologise for his earlier post.

“There was no pressure on me to write or delete an Instagram story,” he said, adding that “there is no division in the Team Melli”.

“I apologise to my friends in the national team because my hasty action caused bloggers to insult my teammates and disturb the peace and order within the team,” he wrote.

With the team’s pre-World Cup friendlies now completed, some players took a more outspoken stance on social media with Majid Hosseini who plays for Kayserispor in Turkey reposting a message calling on the police to put down their guns.

Fellow international Saeid Ezatolahi also expressed solidarity in an Instagram story, urging authorities to “listen to the people of our country”.

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