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the delicate speech of footballers on human rights

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At the World Cup, the question has been going around for a week. Questioned during a press conference on the situation in Qatar, in particular concerning human rights, a footballer – yet among the most agile on the planet with his feet – kicks into touch. “It’s a delicate subject, in the team, we all believe in human rights, workers’ rights and equality; but we are here to represent our country”exposed Bernardo Silva, two days before Portugal’s entry into the World Cup. “We are not insensitive to the situation, but we are here to play football until the end”completed the midfielder of the France team Mattéo Guendouzi a few days later.

Read also: Brazil-Switzerland live: Swiss and Brazilians compete for qualification for the round of 16

Even after having symbolically mimed a gag on November 23, in reaction to the refusal of the International Football Federation (FIFA) to validate the armband ” One Love ” against discrimination, not one German player took advantage of the end of the match – lost against Japan – to speak out. “We wanted to show that we defend our values ​​and human rights”only declared the captain of the Nationalmannschaft, Manuel Neuer, without specifying the values ​​in question.

In this very political World Cup, everything that happens in Qatar is seen through a magnifying glass. Very many observers – from politicians to artists – do not hesitate to give their opinion. The silence of the players is noticed.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers In Qatar, a very political “World Cup”

But why would it be otherwise? “It’s a sensitive point”assumes Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, secretary general of Fifpro, the world union of footballers, not hiding being “annoyed with the way the pressure is put on the players to take a stand on every issue”. The German recalls that “players should have the freedom to express themselves if they choose to, just like anyone else”.

In addition, Mr. Baer-Hoffmann is offended by the often contradictory injunctions: “Either people expect them to say nothing” – symbolized by the “shut up and dribble” thrown at American basketball player LeBron James in early 2018 by a conservative TV presenter –, “either, and this is the case here, they are criticized for not having an opinion based on human rights or a fairly complex geopolitical situation”.

“We expect elaborate answers, like a diplomat”

Captain of Finland until his retirement at the end of 2021, Tim Sparv is one of the few to have spoken about the 2022 World Cup. “We have to talk about Qatar”he enjoined in September 2021 on the American site The Players Tribune. Relating to having inquired about the matter after one of his partners – “good guy” – refused to go to a national team camp organized in Doha in 2019, the defensive midfielder highlighted the difficulties for a player to express himself on these themes. “You are expected to provide elaborate answers in front of the camera on all these sensitive subjects, like a diplomat or a politician. It is extremely uncomfortable. »

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