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Jordan Henderson part of England discussions over World Cup hosts Qatar

Gareth Southgate has questioned what an England boycott of the World Cup would achieve, admitting whatever action is taken by his team will be met with criticism from some quarters.

Accusations concerning the treatment of migrant workers and a poor record of human rights have plagued the Gulf state since it was controversially awarded the finals in 2010.

Male homosexuality is punishable by a prison sentence, same-sex marriages are not recognised by the government and women’s rights are much tighter than in some other parts of the world.

Southgate previously said it is a “great shame” that sections of England supporters will not travel to Qatar for the World Cup this winter and stressed that no one is “complacent” about the issues involved.

He hosted a 30-minute meeting with the current squad at St George’s Park on Tuesday night, discussing the ongoing challenges in Qatar and opening a dialogue on how England could show their opposition.

England manager Gareth Southgate (Mike Egerton/PA)

It appears that will not include a full boycott of the finals, which kick-off in November, as Southgate does not feel that would send the sort of message required to shine a light on the issues.

“I don’t really know what that achieves,” he replied when asked if a boycott of the World Cup had been discussed at any stage.

“It would of course be a big story but this tournament would go ahead. The fact is, unfortunately, the biggest issue that is probably non-religious or non-cultural is what happened with the building of the stadiums. There’s nothing we can do about that either sadly.

“I think as soon as we’ve entered the tournament that’s the point we decide. We’ve known for four years or eight years that this is going to be in Qatar. Is the stance against Qatar as a country? If that’s the case your question is we’re protesting against Qatar as a country?

“We’re intertwined, as we’ve seen with Russia, with all sorts of investment in our country. Sainsbury’s – are we all going to stop shopping at Sainsbury’s as a protest against Qatar? The Shard. There’s all sorts of property investment.

DOHA, QATAR - Thursday, December 12, 2019: A view of the Khalifa Stadium in the Aspire Zone ahead of the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019 in Doha. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“We’re in such a complex world of deals. As we’ve seen with Saudi Arabia recently. On the one hand, people are saying about the investment in Newcastle. On the other we are going to ask them to reduce the oil prices so we can get our petrol cheaper.”

Pushed on whether the suggestion of boycotting was too simplistic given the issues at play: “It (a boycott) is possible but that’s not a decision the players and myself can make.

“I know I hear various versions of this but my understanding is the discussions the FA has had with organisations like Amnesty International is that they feel there would be more change if we go and these things are highlighted. That’s also guiding some of the thinking on that.”

Southgate felt the squad meeting on Tuesday night had been a success but believes any stance taken between now and the finals will not please everyone.

“I think the conversations with the players the other day were very important,” he said.

“I think they’re thinking through how do they best respond, how do they try to affect the things that we might be able to affect.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - Wednesday, June 27, 2018: A Brazil supporter kisses a replica World Cup trophy during the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Group E match between Serbia and Brazil at the Spartak Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Pushed on whether the suggestion of boycotting was too simplistic given the issues at play: “It (a boycott) is possible but that’s not a decision the players and myself can make.

“I know I hear various versions of this but my understanding is the discussions the FA has had with organisations like Amnesty International is that they feel there would be more change if we go and these things are highlighted. That’s also guiding some of the thinking on that.”

Southgate felt the squad meeting on Tuesday night had been a success but believes any stance taken between now and the finals will not please everyone.

“I think the conversations with the players the other day were very important,” he said.

“I think they’re thinking through how do they best respond, how do they try to affect the things that we might be able to affect.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Friday, November 12, 2021: England's Jordan Henderson during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifying Group I match between England and Albania at Wembley Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Jordan Henderson joined Southgate to preview Saturday’s friendly with Switzerland and the Liverpool captain agreed with the sentiment that, whatever the course of action, some will not be satisfied.

“As a senior member of the squad, I do take a lot of responsibility and I’ll try my best to speak with other players, as will other senior members of the team, and come up with something that we all think is right,” he said.

“I think the gaffer’s right, whatever we decide to do as a team will be criticised and will never be enough but that’s not why we do it.

“We do it to try and make a difference in the world, for a positive change and what we think is right as a team.

“I think everybody knows we stand for no discrimination, football is for everyone. We’ll always stand by that and push that in whatever way we decide going forward.”

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