Leah Williamson exclusive: ‘The World Cup in Qatar is a tragedy... I won’t be watching as normal’

Leah Williamson exclusive: ‘The World Cup in Qatar is a tragedy... I won’t be watching as normal’

England captain Leah Williamson believes the World Cup in Qatar is a “tragedy” and has revealed she won’t be following the tournament as closely as she normally would.

The World Cup in Qatar has come in for criticism due to the conditions for migrant workers and the country’s laws regarding same-sex couples.

Williamson, who captained England to Euro 2022 glory this summer, says that makes it difficult for her to follow the tournament in the same way.

“I support the boys, I want them to do well. When it comes down to football, I want them to be successful,” Williamson told Standard Sport.

“Personally, I don’t want to completely ignore the tournament because I think at the end of the day we got here somehow, and I don’t think it should ever happen again and that needs to be addressed as we go.

“I think personally, I don’t want to miss the boat on expressing my views. It doesn’t mean I’ll be watching like a keen fan like I always have. I definitely won’t be.

“I share the views as a lot of my team-mates, if not all of them. The fact we got here, the fact that…it’s a tragedy. We’ve lost so many workers lives.

“There are issues surrounding a community that I am part of, I live it every day with my team-mates. I have a team with a same-sex couple in it. How can I be in support of something that wishes for them to stay away or not be who they are?”

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Williamson does have empathy for the players competing in Qatar given that they are the ones often asked questions about the tournament being there, despite having no say in the matter.

“It’s so hard to be put in that position, it’s the same as fans now,” she added. “They want to enjoy the football, they want to have a great time, yet they have been forced to choose between their own beliefs and a football match, which again should never be the case.

“Then you have got players who, like I say, all they want to do is play football. This should be the biggest celebratory moment of their career almost and they again have to choose between their beliefs and playing the game that they love. I think it is a horrible position to be in.”

The fact we got here, the fact that…it’s a tragedy. We’ve lost so many workers lives.

Leah Williamson

Williamson is an advocate of football being for everyone and she was speaking to Standard Sport for an event at Wembley Stadium, which saw artwork unveiled to honour Helen Hardy’s work - who founded the club Manchester Laces.

Manchester Laces are the first inclusive women’s and non-binary football club in Manchester and Williamson believes them being honoured at Wembley is a big moment.

READ MORE: World Cup in Qatar best images and moments including Germany’s gesture

“It sends a message,” said Williamson. “It shows that we want football to be as inclusive as possible, and what better way to do it than to take it the home of football?

“The amount of messages I’ve had from family members where they’ve got young kids and now instead of one girls’ team, there’s three at the club.

“I think it’s incredible, because it’s surrounding us every day. We are a few months on from that (Euro 2022) now and this is still being told to me. This wasn’t just a summer fling. It feels sustainable now, which is lovely.

England Training Session for FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar | 23rd November 2022

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“I know that every time I’ve stopped on the pitch in an England shirt, or been around the squad, that’s the aim of the team always, to inspire as many people as possible. We are on a journey. We are not going to pretend we are where we want to be yet.”

Leah Williamson has teamed up with The National Lottery to honour the work of amazing individuals championing diversity and inclusion in sport like Helen Hardy, founder of Manchester Laces. The campaign shines a light on how the £30m raised a week by National Lottery players goes towards good causes across the UK.