Gary Lineker has taken aim at FIFA and Qatar in his introduction to the BBC's coverage of the 2022 World Cup, which begins with the tournament opener between the hosts and Ecuador.
Following a title sequence which – in marked contrast to previous tournaments – made no visual references to the host nation – the seasoned anchor immediately addressed the multitude of controversies surrounding the tournament.
Lineker – who won the Golden Boot with England (opens in new tab) at the 1986 World Cup – said:
"It's the most controversial World Cup in history – and a ball hasn't even been kicked.
Gary Lineker starting the world cup showing with that speech damn pic.twitter.com/2KHKfzvgtDNovember 20, 2022
"Ever since FIFA chose Qatar [to host the 2022 World Cup] back in 2010, the smallest nation to have hosted football's greatest competition has faced some big questions: from accusations of corruption in the bidding process, to the treatment of migrant workers who built the stadiums – where many lost their lives.
"Homosexuality is illegal here; women's rights and freedom of expression are in the spotlight. Also the decision six years ago to switch the World Cup from summer to winter.
"Against that backdrop, there's a tournament to be played – one that will be watched and enjoyed around the world. 'Stick to football,' say FIFA. Well, we will – for a couple of minutes at least."
Lineker's piercing salvo came the day after FIFA president Gianni Infantino accused the tournament's critics of 'bullying' Qatar.
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Tom Hancock started freelancing for FourFourTwo in April 2019 and has also written for The Analyst and When Saturday Comes, among others. He supports Wycombe Wanderers and has a soft spot for Wealdstone. A self-confessed statto, he has been known to watch football with a spreadsheet (or several) open...