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The Norwegian national football team donned shirts for their first World Cup 2022 qualifying match to criticise host nation Qatar over alleged human rights abuses, as Norwegian clubs call for a boycott.

The Norwegian national side wore matching shirts featuring the phrase “Human Rights. On and off the pitch,” prior to their first World Cup 2022 qualifier in Marbella, Spain, against Gibraltar.

Footballers Erling Haaland and Martin Odegaard announced the planned action the day before the match during a press conference, saying they would be engaging in a “concrete gesture”, French newspaper Le Parisien reports.

The initiative follows several Norwegian professional football clubs and their supporters calling for a boycott of the Qatar World Cup, including the team Rosenborg BK.

“I have the impression that very many (players) are interested in this, care about it, and wish to do something to try to contribute in a good way,” footballer Martin Odegaard said.

Norway players listen to their national anthem on the pitch wearing t-shirts with the slogan ‘Human rights, on and off the pitch’ before the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification football match between Gibraltar and Norway on March 24, 2021, at the Victoria Stadium in Gibraltar. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP) (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO/AFP via Getty Images)

According to a poll published by Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang earlier this week, 55 per cent of Norwegians would back boycotting the 2022 World Cup, and just 20 per cent said they opposed the idea. The remaining 25 per cent said they were not sure.

Pål Bjerketvedt, secretary-general of the Norwegian Football Association, commented on the poll, saying: “We also notice that one in four is unsure. This means that the need for more information and more insight is needed.”

“This strengthens our work to ensure that a committee looks at all aspects of this. They will look at whether a boycott is one of the measures that will be taken against a regime like Qatar, and the fact that they were unfortunately awarded the World Cup in 2010,” he said.

Last month, The Guardian revealed that 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since the country was awarded the World Cup a decade ago, with the paper saying the figure is likely an underestimate.

“A very significant proportion of the migrant workers who have died since 2011 were only in the country because Qatar won the right to host the World Cup,” labour rights activist Nick McGeehan told the newspaper.

Pay for workers has also been a source of major criticism for the Qatari regime and has led to the creation of a minimum wage, which is currently set at just £159/$275 a month.

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