Gareth Southgate says it is “highly unlikely” England will comply with FIFA’s plea to “let football take the stage” at the World Cup amid concerns over human rights and LGBTQ+ treatment in Qatar.
On Tuesday, an ambassador for the tournament described homosexuality as “damage in the mind”, with discriminatory laws in Qatar criminalising same-sex relations.
The build-up has also been dogged by concerns about the suffering of low-paid migrant workers to build the infrastructure in the Gulf nation.
Last week FIFA had written to World Cup teams urging them to focus on the tournament in Qatar and not be part of lecturing on morality and dragging football “into every ideological or political battle that exists”.
Asked at England’s squad announcement if they would comply with FIFA’s plea to not speak about human rights concerns in Qatar, Southgate said: “I think that’s highly unlikely.
“Contrary to one or two observations in the last few weeks, we have spoken about the human rights challenges and been very clear on our standpoint.
“We would also like to focus primarily on the football – this is a carnival of football, a thing you work for your whole life.
“You don’t want that to be diminished by everything else that’s going on around it but we recognise we are going to be in that situation.”
Southgate: We stand for inclusivity
Last month it was announced England captain Harry Kane will wear a OneLove armband in Qatar, even if it is prohibited by FIFA.
The FA said in September England will wear a rainbow captain’s armband during the tournament as part of an anti-discrimination initiative, and in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
The governing body is determined the England captain will wear the armband even if it risks FIFA fines and Southgate reiterated his support for the LGBTQ+ community.
He said: “We stand for inclusivity, and we’re very, very strong on that.
“We think that’s important in terms of all our supporters and we understand the challenges that this tournament brings within that.
“If it wasn’t for the strength of that community, we wouldn’t be Women’s European Champions so it’s very, very important to us.”
‘It’s like a survival of the fittest situation’
Dr Nas Mohamed, the only publicly out LGBTQ+ Qatari, who has been taking asylum in the United States for the last 11 years, has told Sky Sports News how he had to keep his sexuality secret when growing up in Qatar.
“I had to absolutely keep that part of me completely hidden because it was very dangerous,” he said. “Besides social rejection, risk of not being able to hold a job or violence from community members, you also run the risk of being really severely harmed by your own family and law enforcement if this information is out.
“A lot of these stories, including mine, remain in the shadows and a lot of people don’t hear about them. Even when you leave and take asylum like myself, we’re still afraid to come out publicly and speak because we still worry about being harmed. That’s why, even until now, I’m the only one speaking inside or outside of Qatar.
“A lot of us over there really don’t know about each other because it’s unsafe and when one person is found out the law enforcement punishes them and then taps into their entire network. They go in, go through your contracts and try to find all the other LGBT people you know.”
Dr Mohamed also revealed the impact of the LGBTQ+ community being hunted in Qatar.
“The Human Rights Watch report that came out recently talked about the preventative security department and how they’re basically kidnapping and torturing people in solitary confinement for their sexual orientation and gender identity,” he said.
“They would bring the same person more than once to this facility, beat them up and subject them to conversion practices. Then they would offer some of them safety in exchange for working for them as undercover agents. Some people do that because they’re trapped.
“Now there’s this situation where you’re scared of your own community there because you don’t know who’s working with the law enforcement. You don’t know who would get caught and get your information leaked. It’s like a survival of the fittest situation and it’s just terrible.
“We don’t have freedom of speech. We cannot do that without losing everything we have. After this year we have to have a way to continue to bring visibility to what’s happening inside Qatar.”