By GRAHAM DUNBAR
GENEVA (AP) — Denmark will wear team jerseys at the World Cup that protest the human rights record of host nation Qatar, with a black option unveiled Wednesday to honor migrant workers who died during construction work for the tournament.
“The color of mourning,” kit manufacturer Hummel said in a post on Instagram releasing the black third-choice design.
“While we support the Danish national team all the way, this shouldn’t be confused with support for a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives,” the company said.
The designs seem to complete a promise made by the Danish soccer federation last November to wear clothing with “critical messages” at the tournament in Qatar.
Though FIFA’s World Cup rules prohibit political statements on team uniform, the three Denmark shirt designs in all-red, all-white and all-black appear to comply with no words or symbols that are an explicit statement. The national team badge, Hummel logo and decorative white chevrons —- a famous feature of the Denmark shirt since the 1980s — are faded into the same single color as the shirt.
“We don’t wish to be visible during (the) tournament,” Hummel said. “We support the Danish national team all the way, but that isn’t the same as supporting Qatar as a host nation.”
The gas-rich emirate has been fiercely criticized in the past decade for its treatment of migrant workers mostly from south Asia needed to build tens of billions of dollars’ worth of stadiums, metro lines, roads and hotels.
Definitive numbers of worker deaths and injuries have been hard to verify with inquests not routinely held and limited data released by Qatari authorities.
World Cup organizers in Qatar disputed Hummel’s claim of thousands of deaths in construction work during preparations for the Nov. 20-Dec. 18 tournament.
“Furthermore, we wholeheartedly reject the trivializing our genuine commitment to protect the health and safety of the 30,000 workers who built FIFA World Cup stadiums and other tournament projects,” the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy said in a statement.
“The SC’s work is recognized by numerous entities within the international human rights community as a model that has accelerated progress and improved lives,” organizers said, citing the U.N.’s International Labor Organization.
Denmark, the world’s No. 10-ranked team which reached the European Championship semifinals last year, has been one of the 32 World Cup teams most likely to take a strong stance against Qatar.
The Danish federation joined a European campaign launched last week for captains to wear heart-shaped, multi-colored “One Love” armbands in World Cup games.
Danish officials also have taken a leading role in a group of European soccer federations visiting Qatar to monitor the progress of promised reforms in labor laws.
“This dialogue resulted in a better understanding of the progress made, the challenges faced, and the legacy we will deliver beyond 2022,” Qatari organizers said, urging the Danish federation “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.”
Denmark has been drawn in a World Cup group with defending champion France, which typically wears a dark blue shirt, Australia, whose first-choice color is gold, and Tunisia, which wears white.
The FIFA match schedule for the tournament lists Denmark as the home team with first choice of color only for its opening game on Nov. 22 against Tunisia.
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