England manager Gareth Southgate believes his side have a responsibility to discuss social issues in Qatar, but he admits there has to be realism over what will change due to the hosting of the World Cup.
Qatar has been strongly criticised for its human rights record, including the conditions migrant workers have been subjected to as they build the tournament infrastructure, and also its attitude to LGBTQ rights.
The English Football Association has backed calls from human rights groups for compensation for families of migrant workers who died during World Cup construction projects.
England’s opening match of the tournament on November 21 is against Iran, who have faced calls for expulsion from the World Cup over the alleged use of Iranian drones by Russia in its war against Ukraine.
“Unfortunately we’re in a time where we could be playing fixtures against any number of countries and raising issues of human rights,” Southgate told CNN.
“We need to be aware of them and comment where possible if we can make a difference, we have that responsibility.
“But I’ve been out to Qatar several times and I’ve met with lots of the workers out there and they are united in certainly one thing, that’s that they want the tournament to happen, and they want that because they love football.
“They want the football to come to Qatar. But we’ve also got to be realistic about how much we are going to change in a country we don’t control.”
Off the field issues have dominated the build up to the tournament, which kicks off on November 20.
But England are among the favourites to end a 56-year drought without winning a major tournament after reaching the World Cup semi-finals four years ago and the final of Euro 2020.
“In the end the football is everything. It is why we are there. It’s what we are there to do,” added Southgate.
“The bar of what is expected has changed for us.
“We have to focus on performance and everything builds from there. Ultimately there is no point us going if we are not trying to win it.”
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