Gareth Southgate accepts Qatar issues likely to remain World Cup talking point

Gareth Southgate accepts Qatar issues likely to remain World Cup talking point

4 mins read

Controversy has surrounded the Gulf state hosting the finals since they were awarded in 2010, with the country’s treatment of migrant workers and criminalisation of same-sex relationships among the issues which have caused the most concern.

Gianni Infantino, the president of Fifa, wrote to the association leaders of the 32 competing nations last week urging them not to “allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists”.

The Football Association announced in September it has joined nine other European federations in joining the OneLove anti-discrimination campaign.

As part of that, England captain Harry Kane will wear an armband supporting the campaign at the finals this winter, along with the skippers of the eight other European nations signed up whose teams have qualified.

Southgate, though, does not envisage there will be an end to the conversations around Qatar’s human rights record once the finals kick-off on November 20.

“I think that’s highly unlikely,” he said.

“We have always spoken about issues we think should be talked about, particularly the ones we feel we can affect. Contrary to one or two observations in the last few weeks, we have spoken in the same way other nations have spoken about this tournament, the human rights challenges.

“We’ve been very clear on our standpoint on that. So, look I think we would like to focus primarily on the football. For every player, every coach and everybody travelling to a World Cup, this is a carnival of football. It is the thing you work for your whole life and you don’t want that to be diminished by everything else that is going on around it currently.

“But we recognise we are going to be in that situation, we’ve got to accept and deal with it.”

The treatment of the LGBTQ+ community in Qatar has also been a cause for concern for any supporters wishing to watch their country in action.

Southgate once again pointed to the FA’s previous stances on the matter and highlighted England winning the Women’s Euros this summer as testament to the role of LGBTQ+ members within the sport.

“So, regarding the LGBT community, we stand for inclusivity and we are very, very strong on that,” he said. “We think that is important in terms of all our supporters. We understand the challenges this tournament brings within that.

“If it wasn’t for the strength of that community, we wouldn’t be women’s European champions. So it’s very, very important to us.”

There have also been calls for Iran to be ejected from the finals after the Ukrainian Association of Football made a request to Fifa for what they described as “systematic human rights violations” and “the possible involvement of Iran in the military aggression of Russia against Ukraine”.

It was another question put to Southgate as he announced his 26-man squad for the finals, with England due to start their World Cup campaign against Iran on Monday, November 21.

“With Iran, that’s a political situation that I don’t know enough about to be able to comment,” he said.

“Those decisions have to be taken by governing bodies and I can’t comment with enough authority to give you a considered view.”

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