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Dutch fans cheer win over Latvia as players protest for rights in Qatar

Amsterdam (AFP) – The Netherlands earned their first win of the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Latvia in front of 5,000 fans, who saw Stephanie Frappart make history and another pre-match protest for human rights in Qatar.

Frank de Boer’s side bounced back from their opening round defeat in Turkey with a dominant performance that delighted the small but rowdy crowd at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam.

The Dutch capital is set to host matches at this summer’s delayed Euro 2020 and the supporters, who all tested negative for Covid-19, were at the match as part of an experiment to see whether events with spectators can take place safely during the pandemic.

They went home happy thanks to Steven Berghuis’ superb first-half strike and a Luke de Jong header in the 69th minute, although the Dutch could have won by more, wasting a host of chances and twice hitting the bar.

The Netherlands are third in Group G, three points behind leaders Turkey, who won 3-0 win in Norway and Montenegro, who maintained their perfect start with a 4-1 victory over Gibraltar.

The ‘Oranje’ travel to Gibraltar for their next match on Tuesday.

Frappart was once again a trailblazer as she became the first woman to take charge of a men’s World Cup qualifier.

France’s Frappart was in December the first woman to referee a men’s Champions League match, between Juventus and Dynamo Kiev.

The 37-year-old was also the first woman to referee in the French top flight, the lead official for the 2019 UEFA Super Cup final between Liverpool and Chelsea and made her Europa League debut in October.

Ukrainian Kateryna Monzul will oversee Sunday’s match between Austria and the Faroe Islands in Vienna.

– Dutch join rights protests –

The Dutch became the third team after Norway and Germany to carry out a pre-match protest in favour of rights for the migrant workers involved in stadium construction for next year’s finals in Qatar.

They entered the field in Amsterdam wearing T-shirts with the message “Football supports CHANGE”, aimed at the Gulf state.

Qatar has faced criticisms for its treatment of migrant workers, many of whom are involved in preparations for the 2022 World Cup, with campaigners accusing employers of exploitation and forcing labourers to work in dangerous conditions. 

Qatari authorities insist they have done more than any country in the region to improve worker welfare.

Netherlands defender Matthijs de Ligt told Dutch media that he and his teammates would be working with player unions in other countries “to discuss joint action”.

“We know that the workers who are building the stadiums for the 2022 World Cup are working under very difficult conditions. We cannot remain indifferent to it and do nothing,” he said.

Lyon forward Memphis Depay told news agency ANP: “As footballers our voice needs to be heard. It will be more effective through collective action which brings together different countries rather than by acting individually.”

ANP also reports that while the Dutch football association (KNVB) was never in favour of holding next year’s finals in Qatar, they are not planning on boycotting the tournament.

On Friday, FIFA said that Germany and Norway would not be punished for protests from their teams before qualifying fixtures midweek.

The Germany team lined up before their 3-0 win over Iceland in black T-shirts with white lettering to spell out “Human Rights”, while Norway donned T-shirts with the message “Human rights, on and off the pitch” before their qualifier against Gibraltar.

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