|Host Nation: Qatar Dates: November 20-December 18 Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Daily TV listings – Full coverage details|
Gary Lineker says he is in Qatar to “report, not support” the World Cup and will discuss issues surrounding the “tainted” tournament on air.
Lineker said he had an “uncomfortable feeling” about the tournament.
“It’s our job to come and report it and tell people what it’s about back home and hopefully in a fair way,” he said.
Speaking to BBC sports editor Dan Roan, host of Match of the Day, Lineker said: “There are important issues around this World Cup, obviously with human rights issues, what has happened with the construction of stadiums and workers’ rights and homophobia and various things.have here.
“I’m used to it as I’ve spent most of my life in the build-up to World Cups talking about things other than football, but when the football starts you tend to stop talking about it. But that’s how sports washing works. you have to be careful”.
Qatar has been accused of sportswashing – the act of using sport to improve its reputation and project a positive image of a country – but World Cup organizers have promised openness and inclusion.
Referring to Russia’s annexation of Crimea before the last World Cup in 2018, former England captain Lineker added: “I felt we were exhausted in Russia. I don’t think the world stood up to what had happened in Crimea and i get involved in it..
“It didn’t seem like the world objected as much as they did to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. You learn lessons. This is the World Cup. It is here and we are here to report the World Cup and not to support it. We will raise issues and will talk about them.
“Whether it makes any difference here, I doubt it will, but I think it’s important to talk about different issues that are going on, as well as football.”
Lineker, who was top scorer at Mexico 86, arrived in Qatar on Friday and said it feels “almost surreal” with the start of the World Cup just two days away, adding that it is “very different” to previous editions of tournament.
Peaceful protests are planned by some players, while England’s Harry Kane, Wales’ Gareth Bale and eight other European team captains will wear “One Love” armbands to promote diversity and inclusion in a country where homosexuality is illegal.
But Lineker says the players at the World Cup “can’t win” whether they choose to speak out against Qatar or not.
“It’s a delicate balance between sports washing and trying to make a difference. We will raise the issues at hand, but will it really make a difference?” he said.
“We don’t and footballers are not asked where the World Cup is. Footballers can never win, if you talk and take a stand, people say stick to football.
“If you don’t say anything, they say why aren’t you talking? And we don’t necessarily get that in other sports.
“I know it’s global, but it’s the same as talking about footballers’ salaries. People always talk about footballers being paid a lot, but they don’t talk about movie stars, singers, players or Formula 1 drivers and I think it’s a element of these. Working-class boys are a little above their station. Even if it’s subconscious.”
‘Lack of awareness’ by FIFA
Qatar were awarded the World Cup in 2010, a decision Lineker says was “elusive”.
The decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively has been dogged by allegations of widespread corruption, with two investigations launched by Swiss prosecutors and the US Department of Justice in 2015.
Qatar and Russia have always denied any wrongdoing, and both were effectively cleared by FIFA’s own investigation in 2017.
At the time, then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter supported the bid, but now says it was a “error” to give the World Cup to the Arab nation.
Earlier in November, FIFA wrote to all 32 competing nations telling them “Now focus on football” after the controversial rise.
“It was a real lack of awareness from FIFA to say that,” Lineker said. “Now we have seen all the documentaries, even though we felt them at the time.
“Most of the people who were involved in the decision to bring the World Cup here are in jail or banned from FIFA, or fined or banned, so we all know. .”
He added: “It came at a cost that didn’t have to be paid. It’s on my mind when we talk about it and raise issues, which we will do on television.
“When there’s a football match, I’ll be watching the football match, but at the same time our thoughts will be with those who lost their lives. How can you forget that?”
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