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World Cup 2022: Fifa 'optimistic' to ask teams to concentrate on football – Gareth Southgate


England manager Gareth Southgate says it is “optimistic” of Fifa to expect nations to concentrate solely on football at the World Cup in Qatar.

World football’s governing body Fifa wrote a letter telling the 32 teams to “now focus on the football” following a controversial build-up to the World Cup, which begins on 20 November.

“I think we have always spoken when we have felt it is appropriate,” Southgate told BBC sports editor Dan Roan.

He added: “I don’t see that changing.”

Former Fifa president Sepp Blatter said this week that it was a “mistake” to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

Qatar has been criticised for its stance on same-sex relationships, human rights record and treatment of migrant workers in the lead up to the tournament.

Speaking following England’s World Cup squad announcement on Thursday, Southgate said it was “highly unlikely” England would comply with Fifa’s plea to “let football take the stage”.

He told the BBC: “We would also like to concentrate on the football, frankly, because to go to a World Cup is an unbelievable honour and a privilege.

“And for the players it is a massive moment. You don’t want it tarnished by having to think about off-the-field things.

“But we recognise those things are there and we should discuss them when asked.

“Of course we have also got to focus on the football and trying to make it a success for our country.”

Peaceful protests have been planned by some players, while England’s Harry Kane and the captains of nine other European teams will be wearing ‘One Love’ armbands.

Fifa’s letter to the World Cup teams has been criticised by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and LGBTQ+ campaigners in England and Wales.

Meanwhile, 10 European football associations – including those of England and Wales – said “human rights are universal and apply everywhere” in response.

Amnesty International saysexternal-link that since 2010, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have faced human rights abuses while employed to build wider infrastructure necessary to host the tournament.

Asked whether hosting a World Cup can inspire social change in a country, Southgate said: “I think we have seen that. There have been improvements, there has been change.”

The England boss added: “We have released statements already saying that change could improve in certain areas and we are very clear on that.

“But I think the process of the World Cup being in Qatar will of course put them under the spotlight and that will be uncomfortable for them.

“At times that will be a bit harsh for them but I think the whole thing has improved certain areas that I think everyone will recognise has helped.”

Human rights organisation Equidem has alleged further abuses and exploitation of migrant workers in Qatar before the World Cup, claiming construction firms working on tournament infrastructure projects evaded labour inspections.

The organisation has called for a migrant workers’ centre to be set up in Qatar and a compensation fund to help those affected by the alleged abuse.

This echoes the FA and Uefa’s Working Group, who have backed calls for compensation to be awarded to migrant workers and their families – while a survey in September by human rights organisation Amnesty International found that almost three quarters of UK adults would support a compensation fund.

Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy has criticised Equidem’s report, claiming it is “littered with inaccuracies” and added they were “committed to fair and lasting labour reforms”.

The 2022 World Cup will be the first to be hosted in the Middle East in the tournament’s 92-year history – and the first during the Northern Hemisphere winter.

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