Today at the World Cup: England squad meets migrant workers

As England and Wales continued the build-up to their opening World Cup fixtures, Qatar’s human rights record was again brought into the spotlight.

England defender Conor Coady stressed the squad’s belief that “football is for everybody” as Gareth Southgate and the players met migrant workers.

Wales, meanwhile, stepped up their preparations – but there was still time for captain Gareth Bale to get in a bit of golf.

Here, the PA news agency looks back on Thursday’s events at the 2022 World Cup.

Football for all

England’s Harry Kane plays with the Workers’ Welfare ‘Team 360’ players during a Community Engagement event at the Al Wakrah Sports Club Stadium in Al Wakrah
England captain Harry Kane took part in England’s Community Engagement on Thursday (Martin Rickett/PA)

Having controversially been awarded hosting rights in 2010, Qatar’s suitability and human rights record has been intensely scrutinised.

It has been reported thousands of migrant workers died during preparations for the tournament – something “categorically” denied by authorities.

As part of FIFA’s ‘Community Engagement Events’, the Football Association decided to host a training session with migrant workers at England’s Al Wakrah base.

Penalties were taken by both the players and workers – who the FA surprised by giving them category A tickets to England’s Group B opener against Iran on Monday.

Three Lions centre-back Coady said: “We have spoken about it as a team, have come together and had a chat about it in meetings.

“We have said the same thing – we really believe that football is for absolutely everybody. That is what we believe as a team, as people and as players ourselves. That is what we want to focus on.”

Maddison takes a breather

England midfielder James Maddison during a training session
England midfielder James Maddison sat out Thursday’s training session in Al Wakrah (Nick Potts/PA)

Leicester midfielder James Maddison did not train with the rest of the England squad on Thursday.

Maddison had limped out of the Foxes’ Premier League win over West Ham at the weekend, but still travelled to Doha as planned.

Fears over an injury flare-up have quickly been dispelled, though, with Maddison’s absence being due to load management as the remainder of the group trained in the sweltering midday sun.

FIFA face further criticism

FIFA President Gianni Infantino
FIFA president Gianni Infantino also gave a speech at the G20 Summit in Bali (Leon Neal/PA)

FIFA president Gianni Infantino may have written to all 32 competing nations earlier this month urging them to focus on the on-field action and “not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists” – but how much his message is followed remains to be seen.

As well as Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers, there has also been concerns raised about the safety of local and visiting members of the LGBTQ+ community in a country where same-sex relationships are criminalised.

And Kick It Out chief executive Anthony Burnett said Infantino is “deluded” if he expects World Cup participants to be silent on human rights issues at the tournament.

Burnett said: “I think it’s deluded to a large degree, because if you make a decision to hold a World Cup in a country that is not inclusive for any group of people, and then you expect people to be silent about it and just get on board, believing that football is somehow detached from broader society, it is just ridiculous.”

Bale has a stroll and a swing

Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale is a keen golfer (Adam Davy/PA)

Wales have pushed back the start of their daily training sessions to later in the afternoon to try to limit the impact of the excessive temperatures in the Gulf state.

Robert Page’s squad have taken some time to ease into their hotel surroundings just off the Corniche, the city’s waterfront promenade that extends for seven kilometres along Doha Bay.

Bale, who recently helped Los Angeles FC win a first MLS Cup title, attracted a lot of interest from the local population during the squad’s stroll on Thursday morning.

The Wales talisman has also been able to spend some of his spare time using a golf simulator at the team hotel.

“I think most of us have had a swing. It’s great fun,” Cardiff forward Mark Harris said.

“Team spirit is great anyway, but games like that help you. We also have pool and table tennis.”

Picture of the day

England manager Gareth Southgate during a Community Engagement in Qatar
England manager Gareth Southgate took time out to speak to migrant workers during a Community Engagement in Qatar (Nick Potts/PA)

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