The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, on Tuesday said his country has faced unprecedented criticism since winning the bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

The ruler of the Middle Eastern country noted that some of the criticism amounted to slander.

“We initially dealt with the matter in good faith,” Sheikh Tamim said in a televised policy speech, adding however that some of the early criticism were constructive.

However, he said, a campaign against Qatar expanded to “including fabrications and double standards that were so ferocious that they have unfortunately prompted many people to question the real reasons and motives behind the campaign”.

Qatar, the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup, came under intense international criticism for its treatment of foreign workers and restrictive social laws.

The emir was addressing a session of the Gulf Arab state’s advisory Shura Council as Doha gears up to host football’s main global event, which kicks off on Nov. 20.

Qatar with a population of some three million expects 1.2 million visitors during the tournament, creating an unprecedented logistical and policing challenge for the tiny Gulf Arab state.

Sheikh Tamim said hosting the World Cup was “a great test for a country the size of Qatar”.

“We accepted this challenge out of our faith in our potential, we the Qataris, to tackle the mission and make it a success,” he said.

“It is a championship for all, and its success is success for all.”

Doha has introduced reforms including rules to protect workers from heat and a monthly minimum wage of 1,000 riyals (275), and said it continues to develop its labour system.

Foreign workers account for 85 per cent of the population of Qatar, which was among the world’s top natural gas producers and one of the wealthiest nations per capita.

Sheikh Tamim said higher energy prices had helped Qatar realise a government budget surplus of 47.3 billion riyals (12.8 billion dollars) for the first half of 2022.

This is as against a projected deficit, and gross domestic product growth of 4.3 per cent, according to initial estimates.

“The budget surplus will be directed to reducing the level of public debt and increasing the state’s financial reserves,” he said.

The World Cup will allow Qatar to showcase its economic and institutional strength and cultural identity, he said.(Reuters/NAN)