Gareth Southgate unsure about the benefits of a World Cup boycott

Qatar’s human rights issues have come into the spotlight ahead of the tournament later this year.
Gareth Southgate unsure about the benefits of a World Cup boycott

By PA Sport Staff

England boss Gareth Southgate says he does not see the benefit of boycotting the World Cup.

Qatar’s human rights issues have come into the spotlight ahead of the tournament this year and teams are being put under pressure to speak out against them.

Southgate spoke with his squad earlier in the week about the issues but says that not participating in the tournament would have little effect.

“I don’t really know what that achieves,” he said. !It would be a big story but the tournament would go ahead.

“The fact, unfortunately, is the biggest issue, which is non-religious and non-cultural, is what happened with the building of the stadiums – and there is nothing we can do about that either, sadly.

“We have known for eight years that this is going to be in Qatar. Is the stance against Qatar as a country? We are intertwined, as we are seeing with Russia, with all sorts of investment in this country.

“It is such a complex world of deals as we have also seen with Saudi Arabia. This is complicated, the issues themselves aren’t complicated. All the repercussions if diplomatic relations and dealing with other countries and other organisations are extremely complicated.

“It’s possible, but it’s not a decision that the players or myself would make.”

The boss said his side would face criticism whatever action they took.

He added: “Whatever we do we are going to be criticised. We are back out to Qatar for the draw and that means more chances to meet people on the ground.

“There are going to be things ongoing throughout the year, the players have stepped up to the plate on a number of issues. We have got to use our voice in the right way at the right time.”

Emile Smith Rowe is unlikely to play in England’s friendly against Switzerland on Saturday.

 

The Arsenal attacker missed training on Friday and is set to sit out the Alzheimer’s Society International at Wembley.

“Emile didn’t train today, so I think (it is) unlikely he would be involved tomorrow, nothing too serious,” Southgate said.

“It was a shame to lose Bukayo (Saka), but we are back in these moments with Covid where there is a spike in the country and we are the same.

“There will be debuts this week for sure, whether that is tomorrow or Tuesday.”

Southgate also expressed surprise at Italy’s World Cup play-off defeat to North Macedonia on Thursday.

“It’s a big surprise, it’s clear sometimes teams have a cycle and whether that was a cycle or the after-affects of the (Euro 2020) final and everything else, that is where our players did so well,” he said.

“To get over the emotion of the summer and perform the way we did in the autumn was easily under-estimated.

“I suspect looking at the results and performances that Italy were in that position, but there were fine margins in three or four of their games and that is football.”

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