In a press conference ahead of the football World Cup, England manager Gareth Southgate has said that his players will speak out about human rights abuses in host nation Qatar during the tournament.
Speaking after announcing his 26-man squad for the tournament, which begins next Sunday (November 20) and sees England facing Iran for their first match the following day, Southgate insists his team will be open about issues surrounding the tournament.
“We have always spoken about issues we think should be talked about, particularly the ones we feel we can affect,” he told the media.
“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.
Southgate added: “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 this 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.”
“Regarding the LGBT community, we stand for inclusivity and we are very, very strong on that. 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.”
The wait is over.
— England (@England) November 10, 2022
Before last year’s European Championships, where England reached the final before losing to Italy on penalties at London’s Wembley Stadium, Southgate wrote an open letter to the nation about the players taking the knee before games to highlight police brutality and racial inequality.
“Our players are role models. And, beyond the confines of the pitch, we must recognise the impact they can have on society,” he wrote. “We must give them the confidence to stand up for their teammates and the things that matter to them as people. I have never believed that we should just stick to football.”
Southgate added: “It’s their duty to continue to interact with the public on matters such as equality, inclusivity and racial injustice, while using the power of their voices to help put debates on the table, raise awareness and educate.”
The 2022 World Cup runs from November 20 – December 18 in and around the capital city of Doha, and is being held amid ongoing criticism regarding the death of migrant workers in the creation of stadiums and the country’s views on homosexuality, which is illegal in Qatar.