Too much pressure on players to protest World Cup, says Hugo Lloris

Too much pressure on players to protest World Cup, says Hugo Lloris

France captain Hugo Lloris has said there is “too much pressure” on players to condemn World Cup hosts Qatar.

The Tottenham goalkeeper believes that politicians, rather than athletes, should be the ones to speak out on the many controversies around the host nation and called for players to be allowed to concentrate on the pitch.

The build-up to the tournament, which gets underway on Sunday, has been dominated by criticism of Qatar’s record on human rights, treatment of migrant workers and stance on same-sex relationships.

Lloris and his Spurs team-mate Harry Kane, who leads England, are among the captains of nine European nations planning to wear rainbow-coloured ‘One Love’ armbands at the finals in a message against discrimination, while some other countries are planning protests during the tournament.

Last week, FIFA wrote to all competing nations to request they “now focus on football”, and Lloris says is it “too late” to expect players to protest.

“Honestly, I agree [with FIFA’s sentiment],” Lloris, the last man to lift the World Cup trophy, said. “There’s too much pressure on the players. We are at the bottom of the chain.

“If you have to apply pressure, first of all it had to be 10 years ago. Now it’s too late. You have to understand that for players this opportunity happens every four years and you want every chance to succeed. The focus has to be on the field. The rest is for politicians. We are athletes.”

Last week, England manager Gareth Southgate insisted that he will defy FIFA’s diktat to stick solely to football. “Frankly, I will choose if I speak or not and I am sure the players will as well,” said Southgate. “I don’t think we are necessarily going to be swayed by that communication.”

France go to Qatar as defending champions, but Lloris is wary of the fate of the previous three winners, Italy (2006), Spain (2010) and Germany (2014), who all crashed out in the group stage at the subsequent tournament.

Reporting for duty: Lloris has joined up with the France squad ahead of the World Cup (AFP via Getty Images)
Reporting for duty: Lloris has joined up with the France squad ahead of the World Cup (AFP via Getty Images)

Les Bleus, who are in a pool with Denmark, Tunisia and Australia, are on course to meet England in the quarter-finals if both sides top their groups, but the Spurs skipper says their only focus is reaching the last-16.

“To be the defending champions is not an easy task. If you look at the last three previous champions they struggled a lot and didn’t go through the group stage,” said Lloris.

“This is the first target. We have to play at our best and then we know it’s going to be a different competition from the last-16 onwards. In one game, anything is possible.”