Gareth Southgate: England will not be silenced by FIFA plea to avoid politics talk

Gareth Southgate: England will not be silenced by FIFA plea to avoid politics talk

Gareth Southgate says it is “highly unlikely” England will adhere to FIFA’s request to “let football take the stage” and not speak about human rights concerns during World Cup 2022 in Qatar.

The England manager was speaking to reporters on Thursday following the confirmation of his 26-man squad for the tournament.

Qatar’s record on LGBTQ and women's rights, along with its treatment of foreign workers who helped build the tournament stadia, has long been under the spotlight. This week a World Cup ambassador described homosexuality, which is illegal in the host nation, as "damage in the mind".

Days earlier a FIFA letter to the member associations asked countries not to talk politics, and rather focus on the football. Southgate, who referenced the impact of the gay players in the Lionesses’ Euro 2021-winning squad over the summer, said it was “highly unlikely” the England group would be following the guidance.

He said: “We have always spoken about issues we think should be talked about, particularly the ones we feel we can affect.

“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.

“So, look 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.

Shamed ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter has since said allowing Qatar to host was a ‘mistake’ (AFP via Getty Images)
Shamed ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter has since said allowing Qatar to host was a ‘mistake’ (AFP via Getty Images)

“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.”

Adding about the country’s anti-LGBT laws: “So 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.”