Australia's national football team Thursday condemned human rights abuses in Qatar ahead of the World Cup, becoming the first participating side to collectively criticise the host country.
Football Australia said the reported exploitation of migrant workers during stadium construction "cannot be ignored", and urged Qatar to legalise same-sex marriage in one of the most significant tournament protests to date.
The upcoming World Cup — beginning on November 20 — has been marred by controversy since Qatar was awarded the rights 12 years ago.
"We acknowledge the significant progress and legislative reforms have occurred in Qatar over recent years to recognise and protect the rights of workers, and we encourage all stakeholders to continue this path to reform," Football Australia said in a statement.
"However, we have also learned that the tournament has been associated with suffering for some migrant workers and their families and this cannot be ignored."
The statement from Football Australia was accompanied by a short video featuring 16 players from the Socceroos.
"Over the last two years, we have been on a journey to understand and know more about the situation in Qatar," the players said in the video.
"We are not experts, but we have listened to groups such as Amnesty, Fifa" and "most importantly, the migrant workers of Qatar".
The players acknowledged reforms to improve working conditions but said these changes had been "inconsistent" and could be improved.
Football Australia also urged the oil-rich country to take a softer stance towards same-sex marriage, which is illegal in the country.
"As the most multicultural, diverse and inclusive sport in our country, we believe everyone should be able to feel safe and be their true authentic selves."
Denmark in September announced a special black playing kit — the "colour of mourning" — to recognise the migrant workers who have died in Qatar.
Amnesty International last week said workers in Qatar were still being exploited on "a significant scale".
Captains from a number of leading European countries, including England, France and Germany, will wear armbands in rainbow colours with the message "One Love" in an anti-discrimination campaign during the tournament.
Qatar's ruler earlier this week hit out at "double standards" unleashed in what he described was an "unprecedented campaign" of criticism over his country's rights record.
"Since we won the honour of hosting the World Cup, Qatar has been subjected to an unprecedented campaign that no host country has faced," Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani told Qatar's legislative council.