England manager Gareth Southgate believes there is ‘little more the players can do’ to tackle human rights issues in Qatar after the decision to wearing special captain’s armbands during the World Cup has been criticized.
The Football Association announced on Wednesday that it has joined nine other European federations in joining the OneLove anti-discrimination campaign.
As part of this, England captain Harry Kane will wear an armband supporting the campaign at the finals this winter, along with the skippers of the other eight European listed nations whose teams have qualified.
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham says he has been assured LGBTQ+ fans in England will not be arrested for holding hands or kissing in public at the World Cup in Qatar.
Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in the Gulf state, raising concerns among the LGBTQ+ community for their safety at the finals this winter.
Football has faced widespread pressure to highlight ongoing issues in Qatar, as Southgate defended the latest move.
When asked if there is a question of idealism versus realism about what sport can achieve in terms of raising awareness in Qatar, he replied: “I think there is. I did a lot of research.
“I spoke with many people, from human rights lawyers to the group of migrant workers I met in Qatar.
“There have been certain requests that have been made in terms of areas that we could raise, discuss and support. I think what the FA tried to do yesterday was put them on the table.
“Then separate from that is the armband. This is an agreement between several European nations where we felt it was a collective position that again would get people to discuss and talk about these issues.
“People I’ve spoken to have explained to me – human rights lawyers in particular – that players can’t do much more than talk about these issues and put them on the table. .
“At the end of the day, we are asking for change in a country that we respect, which has made a lot of progress, but also over which we have no control.
“Talking about the issues, raising them and putting them on the table is the vehicle that people involved in the sport have used in the past and that’s what we’re trying to do this time around.
“So there’s always going to be criticism no matter what you do and we have to understand and we have to accept that, but we’re trying to affect the areas that we’ve been asked to affect and I don’t think there’s have much more than that, at this time, unless other ideas are put forward and other requests that we think are appropriate are on the table, it is difficult to do more than what has been asked of us .
The FA continues to seek further details of the assurances given by the Local Organizing Committee that all fans, including those from the LGBTQ+ community, will be welcome, safe and secure in Qatar.
Kane echoed Southgate’s sentiments when asked what his message would be to those who say the armband gesture didn’t go far enough.
“There is not much we can do as players and I think together with the FA and other nations we are doing what we can,” he said.
“I don’t think you’re going to please everyone no matter what we’ve done, but we try and try to make a difference in every way we can.
“I had a discussion with Christian (Eriksen), obviously he is the captain of Denmark, and Hugo (Lloris) from Spurs.
“It was about coming together and I think being together sends a bigger message rather than people doing individual things. Players can’t do much.
“I think by wearing the armband on the biggest stage in the world, one of the most televised events in the world, it will have an impact.
“But we can only do what we can and we have definitely taken a step forward to solve some of the problems that exist in Qatar.”