Southgate says England won’t be muzzled by FIFA, but they are in Qatar to play football

November 11 – FIFA’s plea that World Cup teams concentrate purely on football without referencing Qatar’s human rights record and treatment of migrant workers is likely to be ignored, according to England manager Gareth Southgate.

The unprecedented attempt by FIFA’s two most powerful officials – president Gianni and secretary general Fatma Samoura – to muzzle players and officials when it comes to non-footballing issues was made amid increasing concern by World Cup organisers in the build-up to the tournament that gets under a week on Sunday.

But Southgate doesn’t expect his players to refrain from speaking up about wider issues.

“I think that’s highly unlikely,” Southgate said at a news conference announcing his 26-man squad. “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.”

Nevertheless, said Southgate, it has to be recognised that teams are there for one main reason without too many distractions.

“I think we would like to focus primarily on the football. For every player, every coach and everybody traveling to a World Cup, this is a carnival of football,” he said.

“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.”

Many of the European World Cup teams have committed to their captains wearing One Love anti-discrimination armbands, which is in breach of FIFA rules.

“Regarding the LGBT community, we stand for inclusivity and we are very, very strong on that,” Southgate said. “We think that is important in terms of all our supporters. We understand the challenges this tournament brings within that.”

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