areth Southgate insists England “don’t have any control” over Qatar and says there is “not a lot” more his squad can do except talk about the issues in the country ahead of this winter’s World Cup.
The Football Association this week announced that England captain Harry Kane will wear a multicoloured OneLove armband at the tournament as part of a campaign “to promote inclusion and send a message against discrimination of any kind”.
The gesture and the FA’s accompanying statement has drawn criticism from human rights campaigners, who says more needs to be done to challenge Qatar’s laws on same-sex relationships and human rights record.
Same-sex relationships are criminalised in the Gulf State, where migrant workers have suffered appalling abuse since their successful World Cup in 2010.
“I’ve done a lot of research, I’ve spoken with a lot of people from the human rights lawyers to the migrant worker group that I met out in Qatar,” Southgate told a press conference ahead of England’s Nations League game against Italy in Milan on Friday.
“The FA have done a lot of due diligence with the NGOs. So there were certain requests that were made in terms of areas we might raise, talk about and support. I think what the FA have tried to do yesterday is put those on the table.
“Then, separate to that, is the armband. That’s an agreement between several European nations where we felt it was a collective stance that again would lead to people having discussions and talking about these issues.
“The people I’ve spoken to have explained to me – human rights lawyers in particular – that there’s not a lot more the players can do than talk about those issues and put them on the table. In the end, we are asking for change in a country we are respectful of, that has made a lot of progress, but also we don’t have any control over.”
Kane — who will wear the armband in internationals for the rest of the year along with the captains of Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Wales — insisted the gesture will have a positive impact and reiterated that there is “only so much” the players can do.
“I had a discussion with Christian [Eriksen], obviously he’s not captain of Denmark, and Hugo [Lloris] at Spurs. It was about coming together and I think being together sends a bigger message rather than people doing individual stuff,” Kane said.
“There’s only so much the players can actually do. I think by wearing the armband on the biggest stage in the world, one of the most televised events in the world, will have an impact. But we can only do what we can and we’ve definitely taken a step forward to help some of the issues out there in Qatar.”
Southgate will be without the suspended John Stones in Milan, while Jordan Henderson is unavailable due to a hamstring problem.