(Reuters) – Players and managers must not be repeatedly asked to stand up for migrant workers and human rights issues in Qatar as nothing was done when the country was awarded the World Cup 12 years ago, Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said on Friday.
Qatar has come under intense pressure in recent years for its treatment of foreign workers and restrictive social laws, leading to many participating teams raising concerns, although the country has denied claims that workers were exploited.
However, with the tournament less than three weeks away, Klopp said it was time to let the players and managers focus on their jobs rather than be standard bearers for protests.
“I don’t like the fact that now players from time to time get in a situation where they have to now send a message,” the German coach told reporters.
“(We are) now telling players, ‘you have to wear this armband or if you don’t do it then you are not on their side. And if you do it, you are on their side’. No, no, no, it’s footballers.
“It’s a tournament we have to organise and players go there and play and do the best for their countries. They have nothing to do with the circumstances. It’s all not okay for the players.”
Qatar is the first Middle Eastern nation to host the World Cup but questions were raised when the tiny Gulf country that had never qualified for the tournament before was awarded the hosting rights in 2010 in a controversial bidding process.
“We all let it happen … it’s there and it’s fine. Because 12 years ago, nobody did anything. We cannot change it now,” Klopp, who said he will not go to the World Cup, added.
“How it happened was not right in the first place. But now it’s there. Now let them play the games — the players and the managers.
“Don’t put Gareth Southgate constantly in a situation where he has to talk about everything. I’m not a politician, he’s not a politician. He’s the manager of England, let him do that.”
The World Cup kicks off on Nov. 20 and ends on Dec. 18.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)