Southgate's England plan to highlight Qatar concerns but World Cup demonstrations 'complicated'

By Sports Desk March 20, 2022

England intend to use the World Cup in Qatar to highlight concerns around the host country, but Gareth Southgate says they must be "realistic" as any demonstration will be "complicated" and "different to taking the knee".

Qatar's poor human rights record has been a concern during the build-up to the 2022 finals.

The nation's stance towards women and the LGBTQ+ community was widely raised as an issue before FIFA awarded it the 2022 tournament. Since then, during preparation for the finals, the deaths of thousands of migrant workers have been reported, although Qatar's organising committee disputed what it called "inaccurate claims" around the number of fatalities.

England – semi-finalists in Russia in 2018 – have qualified for the World Cup and plan to make the most of their platform.

However, manager Southgate suggested it was unlikely the Three Lions would follow the example of Norway, who wore T-shirts in qualifying calling for "human rights on and off the pitch".

Indeed, Southgate explained it was difficult to come up with the right response after learning of female and LGBTQ+ fans who were staying away.

Describing that as "a great shame", Southgate said: "We stand for inclusivity as a team, and it would be horrible to think some of our fans feel they can't go because they feel threatened, or they're worried about their safety."

Detailing England's thought process, he continued: "I don't think it's something where we're just going to be able to come out with a statement that will satisfy everything.

"This is different to taking the knee and the importance we felt on that. We're not saying this is any less important.

"We feel the World Cup is an opportunity to highlight some of these issues and we have a platform to be able to do that. We've also got to do that in a responsible way.

"I'm not sure that just wearing a T-shirt makes a difference. I don't totally know what we can do in every aspect to make a difference.

"I think we have to be realistic about what that might be. We're going to a country that FIFA decided where this tournament was going to be played: it's culturally different and religiously different.

"So, there are some things we're not going to be able to affect. Maybe there are some things that we can affect.

"If we can and we think they're worthwhile, then we'll try to do that. Without a doubt, one of the priorities in my mind is our own fans and how they're going to be dealt with in particular, but there may be other issues.

"I don't think any of us are complacent about any of it. I'm certainly taking it very seriously. I want to make sure the players are protected, I want to make sure they are able to use their voice in the right way, but I also don't want them to be used with broader agendas at play, perhaps.

"So, it's going to be complicated. And I think we're going to get some criticism whatever we do, but we're going to try to do the best that we can."

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