Junior partner in Spain’s coalition government slams King Felipe VI’s decision to travel to Qatar World Cup

SPAIN’S leftist Unidas Podemos party has slammed King Felipe VI for travelling to Qatar for the group stages of the World Cup, calling the decision to go ‘lamentable’ given that the monarch has not first made ‘any criticism of the Qatari dictatorship’.

The comments were made by Gerardo Pisarello, who is a deputy for Barcelona for the Catalan branch of the party and the first secretary of the speaker’s committee in the Congress of Deputies, Spain’s lower house of parliament.

Unidas Podemos is the junior partner to the Socialist Party in the coalition government, giving the criticism extra weight. 

‘Not since Argentina ’78 has there been a World Cup that has been so under scrutiny due to the violation of human rights,’ Pisarello said during a press conference in Congress earlier this week, in reference to the 1978 tournament that was organised under a military dictatorship in the South American country. ‘Football should be more of a sport and not the obscene and unscrupulous business that FIFA has turned it in to.’

Qatar has been roundly criticised ahead of the tournament for its human rights record, as well as the thousands of migrant workers reported to have died while building the stadiums that will host the games.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson for Unidas Podemos in Congress, Pablo Echenique, also voiced his opposition to the king’s presence at the World Cup, pointing out that he will be the only European king who will travel to Qatar for the group stage. 

‘It never fails,’ he wrote via Twitter on Monday. ‘Wherever there is a dictatorial, murderous, sexist homophobic Arab theocracy that’s rich with oil money, the Borbóns are quick to follow,’ he said, in reference to the name of the Spanish royal family. 

Echenique’s comments were also a dig at Felipe’s father, self-styled emeritus king Juan Carlos I, who has long had ties to royal families in the Middle East and has been living in self-imposed exile in Abu Dhabi since 2020 after a series of damaging scandals involving his finances came to light. 

Spain is due to play its opening match at the Qatar World Cup today, Wednesday, against Costa Rica. 

Felipe VI’s wife, Queen Letizia, did not travel with her husband to the tournament and instead was present at a number of events in Barcelona today about mental health, which is one of her main areas of activism.

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