Qatar World Cup organisers feel they have been unfairly treated since winning the right to host the tournament in 2022.
The small Arab state has been heavily criticised since controversially beating rival bids from the United States, Australia, South Korea and Japan in 2010.
Qatar 2022 has been accused of corruption and failing to protect workers’ rights and chief executive officer Nasser Al Khater said in an interview with CNN that he had been surprised by the level of criticism.
“I think we were expecting it. I don’t think we’re expecting the severity of it,” Al Khater said.
“Was Qatar treated unfairly? Yes, in my opinion, very much so.
“I believe that Qatar has been judged by the court of perception very early on. It started off with the size, it started off with the weather.
“Then there was the issue of corruption. Then there was the issue of workers’ welfare.
“When it comes to workers’ welfare, we raised our hand very early on and said, ‘This is an area that is challenging, and we know that there needs to be a lot of work.’
“Nobody can deny today, and not by us saying this, but by internationally recognised bodies, the amount of work that went into legislation and the amount of work that went to the improvement of workers’ conditions.”
Al Khater said that, with regards to allegations of corruption, Qatar 2022 had “held ourselves at the highest regards during the bidding stage”.
“After years and years and years and years of investigation was it only put to a rest and you still hear it sometimes in the press and there’s always that byline awarded questionably or something of the sort, and that for us is unfair because we’ve been tried in the public court,” Al Khater said.
Qatar has also been criticised for its human rights record, but Al Khater insisted the 2022 finals would be “very inclusive”.
“Everyone is welcome,” he said. “We are not putting any restrictions on any nationality or anybody with respect to their gender, race, orientation, religion to attend this World Cup.”
When asked if those from the LGBT community should hide their sexuality when attending the tournament, Al Khater said Qatar was a “conservative and modest” country.
“Public display of affection is frowned upon in general,” he added. “So, what I would suggest is public display of affection is taken into consideration of Qatar being a conservative country.
“And I’m not saying public display of affection for any gender or any sexual orientation, I’m talking for everybody.”