LONDON, UK — Just minutes after finishing the last Premier League match before the World Cup, Manchester United duo Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen both questioned the decision to stage the tournament in Qatar.
Fernandes said the World Cup “should be done in a better way,” criticizing the timing of the tournament and highlighting Qatar's treatment of migrant workers.
The Qatar World Cup — which starts next weekend — is the first to be played in November and December rather than in June-July because of the desert nation's searing heat in the summer. Qatar has also faced intense scrutiny of its treatment of the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who were needed in the tiny emirate since the World Cup hosting rights were won 12 years ago. Amnesty International says dozens may have died from apparent heat stroke.
Qatar's views on homosexuality — which is criminalized in the country — has also been heavily criticized and the comments by Fernandes indicated that players will not hesitate to speak up about issues even as the tournament draws near.
“It’s not exactly the time we want to be playing in the World Cup,” Fernandes, who plays for Portugal, told Sky Sports after a 2-1 win over Fulham. “We know the surroundings of the World Cup, what has been in the past few weeks, past few months, about the people that have died on the construction of the stadiums. We are not happy about that at all. ... We want football to be for everyone, everyone has to be included and involved in a World Cup because a World Cup is the world. It’s for everyone, it doesn’t matter who. But for a World Cup it’s more than football, it’s a party for fans, players, something that’s a joy to watch, (it) should be done in a better way."
Eriksen, who will play for Denmark in Qatar after recovering from suffering cardiac arrest during a game at last year's European Championship, echoed Fernandes' comments.
“I totally agree with Bruno. There is a lot of focus on it, how the World Cup has happened and why it is in Qatar. Everyone agrees it hasn’t been done in the right way," Eriksen said. “We are footballers, we play football — politics is about something above us to make that decision. Of course we try to say our thing and do what we can. We want to get focus on it, but the change has to come from somewhere else.”