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David Beckham turns a blind eye to racism, misogyny and homophobia in Qatar because of £10m deal

Strolling happily through a bustling bazaar in Qatar, a casually dressed David Beckham looks like any other well-heeled tourist enjoying an autumn sunshine break.

But what these exclusive photographs actually show is the former England football captain making a promotional film last month to plug the Middle Eastern nation and its controversial World Cup – a role for which he is being paid in excess of £10 million.

And despite Beckham’s winning smiles, a storm is growing ever-larger over Qatar’s appalling human rights abuses, which form the unacceptable backdrop to next year’s competition.

David Beckham at the Souq Waqif Art Centre in Qatar. Over two days he also visited the city’s metro system and dined at upmarket restaurants Nobu and Banyan Tree 

This newspaper has highlighted over recent weeks how the country is rife with racism, misogyny and the persecution of gay men and women.

Devastating reports have revealed how women are forced to seek male approval to marry, study or travel, and that rape victims can end up facing seven years in prison for having sex outside marriage.

Last week we told how fears are growing for the safety of 23-year-old Qatari women’s rights activist Noof al-Maadeed, who had fled from her homeland to the UK in 2019 but has vanished since returning earlier this month after receiving assurances from the authorities that she would be safe.

Another dispatch exposed the plight of men who are thrown in jail just for looking as if they might be gay.

In Qatar, homosexuality is punishable by three years in jail. We also revealed how migrant workers are being treated as second-class citizens and that hundreds have died while building roads and stadiums in preparation for the tournament.

Beckham once claimed that feminism is in his DNA, and last year posed for pictures wearing a Gay Pride T-shirt, but after a previous promotional visit to Qatar in 2019 he applauded its ‘great hotels and great culture’.

The former England captain has come under fire for promoting an event in a country with such a poor record of human rights. Reports revealed that women are forced to seek male approval to marry, study or travel

Last night he faced criticism from campaigners for using his influence to endorse a country where woman and gay people suffer such horrendous abuse.

Veteran human-rights activist Peter Tatchell said: ‘Qatar is not a great culture, like David said it is, if you are a woman, a migrant worker or gay.

'It is really disappointing that he is promoting Qatar in return for a lot of money, given its dismal human-rights record.

‘He has made a huge mistake. I hope he will think again. This doesn’t square with his professed support for women’s and LGBT+ rights.’

Beckham’s team would not confirm on the record the existence of his lucrative promotional deal.

But a source close to the ex-footballer said he was in Doha on a fact-finding trip.

A spokesman said: ‘David has been visiting Qatar regularly for over a decade and … has seen the passion for football in the country and the long-term commitment that’s been made to hosting the World Cup and delivering a lasting legacy for the region.

‘He’s always talked about the power of football as a force for good on many levels.’

But Beckham refused to answer questions on the persecution of gay people and the mistreatment of women and migrant workers.

His reaction mirrors that of other high-profile stars from the world of football who are usually keen to speak out against discrimination and prejudice.

England manager Gareth Southgate, team captain Harry Kane, Match Of The Day presenter Gary Lineker and former England star turned television pundit Gary Neville are among those who have remained silent on Qatar.

Beckham on a 2019 visit to the Education City Stadium in Qatar. Last night he faced criticism from campaigners for using his influence to endorse a country where woman and gay people suffer such horrendous abuse

On October 4, a private jet whisked Beckham to Qatar’s capital city, Doha.

The fabulously wealthy footballer’s 69 million Instagram followers are usually kept well informed about his glamorous lifestyle, but he was unusually coy on this occasion, choosing not to post any pictures of his trip.

However, excited locals who saw him touring the city accompanied by photographers, and a film crew posted their own shots on Qatari social-media sites.

Over two days Beckham visited the city’s metro system and the Souq Waqif Art Centre, and dined at upmarket restaurants Nobu and Banyan Tree.

The MoS revealed in February how Beckham, 46, who is worth an estimated £360 million, had signed the deal to be an ambassador for Qatar, with a major role in promoting the World Cup.

Beckham formed a close friendship with the Qatari president of French football club Paris Saint-Germain, Nasser Al-Khelaifi (pictured right) in 2013

He has never confirmed or denied the arrangement.

It is understood the deal came about after Beckham formed a close friendship with the Qatari president of French football club Paris Saint-Germain, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, when the former Manchester United star joined the club in 2013.

The pair were photographed laughing together at an international match in Qatar in December 2019 and Beckham has become a frequent visitor to the country – he is due back in Qatar next month to watch the Formula 1 Grand Prix hosted by the desert state.

Al-Khelaifi also runs the Qatari sports television channel beIN. The network faced criticism for hiring Andy Gray and Richard Keys to anchor its football coverage when they were sacked from Sky after making offensive remarks about female official Sian Massey and other women.

Beckham has been interviewed on the Qatari channel where he spoke of his wish that he could play in Qatar’s World Cup, a ‘great culture’ and the positive outcomes that holding the tournament there will achieve.

Rothna Begum, senior women’s rights researcher at campaign group Human Rights Watch, said: ‘Celebrities who are being paid to promote the Qatari state who consider themselves to be pro-women and pro-women’s rights should be using the opportunity and access to those in positions of power to enquire about things that are happening.’