Gary Lineker insists he’s at the World Cup to ‘report, not support’ the ‘tainted’ tournament in Qatar and vows to address the nation’s human rights issues while on air for the BBC
Gary Lineker has pledged to discuss issues around the Qatar World Cup on air during the tournament.
Lineker is in Qatar to cover the World Cup for the BBC, but talk around the event has been dominated by human rights issues in the host nation.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Lineker said that he is ‘accustomed’ to talking about events rather than the football during World Cups, but admitted it is important to continue to address the issues when proceedings get underway.
Gary Lineker has pledged to discuss issues around the Qatar World Cup on air this winter
Lineker is in the Middle East working for the BBC at the tournament, which starts on Sunday
‘There are significant issues around this World Cup, obviously with human rights issues, what has happened with the building of the stadiums and workers’ rights and homophobia and various things they have here’, he said.
‘I am accustomed to it as I’ve spent most of my life in the build-up to World Cups talking about issues other than football, but when the football starts you tend to stop talking about it. But that is how sportswashing works so you have to be careful.
‘I think it’s important to talk about the various issues going on, as well as the football.’
The tournament has been engulfed by controversy around human rights issues in Qatar
This year is the first ever winter addition of the tournament in its 92-year history, and the former England forward admitted there’s a feeling of unfamiliarity about proceedings.
There have been questions about the awarding of the tournament given Qatar’s human rights record, with worker deaths and LGBT laws a focus.
Lineker went onto question whether those involved can truly make a difference to the issues surrounding the tournament, with many other senior figures, including FIFA president Gianni Infantino, urging people to focus on the football.
Peter Tatchell was allegedly arrested after staging what he said was Qatar’s first LGBT protest
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has regularly urged for focus to be on the football in Qatar
‘[It’s] very different’, Lineker said. ‘It’s a delicate balance between sportswashing and trying to make change. We will raise the issues at hand but will it really make a difference?
‘We don’t and the footballers don’t get asked where the World Cup is. Footballers can never win, if you speak up and make a stand, people say stick to football.
‘If you don’t say anything, they say why aren’t you speaking up? And we don’t necessarily get this in other sports.
‘Most of the people who were involved in the decision to bring the World Cup here are in jail or expelled from FIFA or fined or banned so we all know. We are stuck with it but I guess we will try and make the most of it.’
The tournament gets underway on Sunday, with host nation Qatar facing Ecuador in Group A.