‘I’ll choose whether or not to speak and I’m sure the players will too’: Defiant Gareth Southgate insists England will discuss Qatar’s homosexuality and human rights controversies if asked during World Cup, despite FIFA’s request to “focus on football”.
Gareth Southgate has told FIFA that England will not comply with his gag order when the World Cup kicks off in Qatar in nine days.
Last week, FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Secretary General Fatma Samoura sent a letter to the 32 participating nations asking them to talk only about football when the tournament starts.
The preparation for Qatar has been overshadowed by coverage of human rights controversies associated with the host nation. Homosexuality is banned in Qatar and thousands of migrant workers are alleged to have died while building the infrastructure for the tournament under harsh working conditions.
Gareth Southgate has suggested that England will reject FIFA’s request to “focus on football” in Qatar
FIFA president Gianni Infantino recently called on competing nations to ignore discussions of human rights issues ahead of the tournament in the Middle Eastern country.
Qatar’s human rights record and treatment of migrant workers has come under fierce scrutiny
“Frankly, I’ll choose whether or not to speak and I’m sure the players will too,” England manager Southgate said. ‘I don’t think we let ourselves be influenced by that communication.
‘Having said this, we have to be focused on football. We have to do the team well. But we’ll talk when asked. We will answer questions and rightly so.
‘I am also aware of how much we can affect and I think we have made the requests that human rights organizations have asked of the FA. We have pushed that.
‘I’m not sure there’s much more I can say on those issues that are new. But we are in a position where we have some influence.
The Southgate players will decide next week whether to take a knee in Qatar. “That will be a discussion with the players when we get to camp,” he said.
“I have always supported what they want to do. I have an opinion, but I don’t want to influence them because it’s important that they have something to say about it.’
England captain Harry Kane is one of 10 European nation captains who will wear ‘One Love’ armbands to promote diversity and inclusion at this year’s World Cup.
And Southgate says it’s “highly unlikely” England will stay out of ethics discussions in Qatar