Ireland’s Stephen Kenny raises human rights concern before Qatar game
Stephen Kenny has highlighted the issue of human rights in Qatar before the Republic of Ireland’s friendly against the World Cup hosts. His comments come after players from Germany, Norway and the Netherlands wore T-shirts voicing their collective concern ahead of their qualifiers in the last week.
Asked if his players would follow suit in Tuesday’s friendly in Debrecen, Hungary, the manager said he had not discussed it with them, but added: “I’m all about freedom of speech. Any individual has the right to express their opinion, I have no problem with that.
“There is a clear issue with human rights in the building of stadiums in Qatar, and the number of people who have died. You can’t sweep that under the carpet, it can’t be ignored.
“Initially the Norwegian team and various other teams have backed that and they are entitled to do that, with good reason. It’s not acceptable for so many people to lose their lives. The disparity of wealth between rich and poor, to have people living in conditions of squalor and have people dying in those conditions is not acceptable.”
On the wider issue of athletes using their position to address political subjects – Fifa’s disciplinary code prohibits non-sporting demonstrations – Kenny said there was a need for further discussion. He said: “Where do you draw the line? Do you say, for example, America boycotting the Olympics in Russia, Russia boycotting the Olympics in America, what does that achieve? We’re not sure. Years later, we still haven’t gauged a measurement of what that actually achieved.
“Is it the handing out of the World Cup to Qatar initially, is that the problem? Or should teams refuse to go and players refuse to play? Those are different matters. It’s a broader picture then in sport: what other countries do you pick and say: ‘You can’t do that’? It is a very complex issue and something that needs a wider debate.”