Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer has questioned claims of forced labour in Qatar, insisting he has never seen any cases of 'slavery' in the nation which will host the 2022 World Cup finals.
Working conditions of the employees on sites building stadia and infrastructure for the tournament have been under scrutiny since The Guardian reported that at least 44 such workers died in a two-month spell this summer.
The reports also alleged that pay can be withheld from workers -- the vast majority of whom are immigrants -- for several months and passports have been confiscated to prevent them leaving the country.
Speaking at an event in Munich on Monday, Beckenbauer said: "I have not seen a single slave in Qatar. I don’t know where those reports come from. I have been to Qatar many times and therefore have a different view, which, I believe, is more realistic."
The reports led to widespread discussion over the suitability of the Gulf state to host a World Cup finals. Last week, the chairman of the German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB) and the German Football Association (DFB) claimed that "a country that treats their workers like slaves" can’t host the tournament.
They took action to enforce pressure on FIFA to appeal to Qatar to either allow the minimum standard of the International Labour Organisation (ILA) and allow unionised labour or "have the World Cup taken away from them."