England manager Gareth Southgate appeared to dismiss the idea of the Three Lions boycotting the Qatar World Cup as a form of protest.
Qatar’s poor human rights record has been a concern during the build-up to the 2022 finals, and England captain Harry Kane revealed on Wednesday that he and his fellow senior players are looking to do something to help raise awareness of these and other issues around the tournament.
The Gulf nation’s stance towards women and the LGBTQ+ community was widely pointed to as a problem before FIFA awarded it the tournament in 2010.
Meanwhile, the deaths of thousands of migrant workers have been reported during preparation for the finals, although Qatar’s organising committee disputed what it called “inaccurate claims” around the number of fatalities.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s friendly against Switzerland, Southgate was asked if boycotting the tournament was an option being considered.
“I don’t really know what that achieves. It would be a big story but the tournament would still go ahead,” he said.
“I think as soon as we have entered the tournament, that is the point you decide. We’ve known for years [that it would be held in Qatar]. Is the stance against Qatar as a country or the specific issue? If it is Qatar as a country, then we are intertwined with other issues like we have seen with Russia with all sorts of investment in our country.
“Are we all going to stop shopping at Sainsbury’s as a protest against Qatar? We are in such a complex world with deals as we have seen in Saudi Arabia recently. On the one hand, people are talking about the investment in Newcastle, on the other we are going asking them to reduce oil prices so we can get our petrol cheaper.
“I think we are all observing and thinking this is really difficult. This is complicated. I know the issues themselves aren’t but the repercussions and diplomatic relations are extremely complicated.
“It is possible [boycotting], but I don’t think that is a decision myself and the players can make.
“My understanding is that the discussions that the FA has had with organisations like Amnesty International, is that they feel there would be more change if we go and these things are highlighted so that is guiding the thinking.”
— England (@England) March 25, 2022
Southgate was joined at the news conference by Jordan Henderson, who revealed the players have been briefed on the issues around Qatar during this training camp.
“I’d reiterate what Harry said about it the other day, I think he spoke very well,” the Liverpool midfielder said when asked about human rights issues. “We’ve been briefed this week, which is really important, on the issues that are currently happening there and have happened over the last few years.
“We’re digesting that [as a team], coming up with ideas of what we want to do going forward. It’s an opportunity to shine a light on issues and how we can make changes for the better.
“We don’t want to rush into things… we’ll continue to speak and come up with something we want to do as a team.”
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