Protesters rally against FIFA president

Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 8:10 p.m. CDT

HONG KONG — A handful of protesters holding banners and placards demonstrated peacefully Thursday at an event with FIFA president Sepp Blatter to highlight the plight of migrant workers building stadiums in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup.

Blatter was a guest at the inauguration of the Hong Kong Football Association's new offices.

The International Trade Union Confederation reported recently that 1,200 workers have died on building projects in Qatar in less than four years since the 2022 World Cup was awarded to the Gulf nation. Migrant workers, mainly from south Asia, are said to work in dangerous conditions and live in squalor while earning a pittance.

Blatter distanced soccer's governing body from the issue and said it was a matter which only the local authorities could handle.

"They have a problem and we know that, but this is not a question for FIFA," Blatter said. "It is one which the state of Qatar must handle as well as all the construction companies who are responsible for the workers."

Blatter also downplayed security fears ahead of this year's World Cup in Brazil. Violent protests left one man dead in Rio's Copacabana beach this week, less than two months before the opening match on June 12.

"Yes, there are security issues, but those matters lie with the government and state of Brazil and that is a part of the commitment they have given to us. FIFA cannot ensure security," Blatter said. "But be optimistic, football is optimistic this will be a great tournament in a country where football is revered."

Blatter also said there have always been some issues in the lead-up to the World Cup. Three stadiums in Brazil still have not been completed.

"There are problems, but I have never seen a World Cup where everything was ready before it kicked off. I have been to 10 World Cups, and every time there have been worries," Blatter said. "We are just about one month away from this World Cup, and I'm optimistic it will be a great tournament."

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