Jürgen Klopp has said Fifa’s decision to award the World Cup to Qatar should make everyone angry 12 years on but insisted it is wrong to demand a political stance from the managers and players involved.
The Liverpool manager will not attend and admits he has no enthusiasm for a tournament shrouded in controversy, from the abuse of migrant workers to the treatment of LGBTQ+ fans. Klopp believes there should have been a robust challenge to Fifa’s awarding of the competition to Qatar in 2010. In the absence of one, he insists it should not fall to the likes of Gareth Southgate and Harry Kane to lead any protests.
“I watched an old documentary about when it got announced that Russia and Qatar are the places for the next World Cups,” the Liverpool manager said. “We all know how it happened and we all let it happen. No legal thing afterwards led to a real … what can I say? It was hidden everywhere but now it is open, now everybody knows, and you think: ‘How could it happen?’ It was 12 years ago. It’s nothing to do with Qatar. They won the World Cup and now it is there. But in the moment you put it there, all the things that followed it up were clear. And the people who were involved at that time should have known.
“Later on we talk about human rights in terms of the people who have to work there in circumstances that are, let me say it nicely, difficult. We couldn’t play the World Cup there in the summer because of the temperature and there was not one stadium in Qatar, or maybe one. So you have to build stadiums. I don’t think anybody thought on that day about somebody having to build them. It’s not like Aladdin with his wonder lamp and: ‘Boom, there’s a new stadium.’ The situation makes you angry. How can it not?
“I will watch it from a football point of view but I don’t like the fact that players now have to send a message. You are all journalists. You should have sent the message but you didn’t write the most critical articles about circumstances that were clear. There we are guilty. But now we are telling players they have to wear an armband and if they don’t do it then they are not on their side. No, no, no; these are footballers, it is a tournament and the players must go there and play and do the best for their countries. It is nothing to do with the circumstances.
“There are wonderful people there and it is not that everything is bad over there but how it happened was not right in the first place. But now it is there, let them play the game as players and managers. Don’t put Gareth Southgate constantly in a situation where he has to talk about everything. He has an opinion but he’s not a politician, I’m not a politician; he’s a manager of England so let him do that. If you want to write about something else then do it, but by yourself without asking us so that it’s ‘Klopp said’ or ‘Southgate said’. As if that would change anything. You more than I let it happen 12 years ago.”
It was put to Klopp that the media has done more to expose human rights abuses in Qatar than anyone in the football community. “But not then,” he replied. “There were plenty of chances in the next three or four years to say the process was not right and a lot of people took money for the wrong reasons.”
The Football Association is to challenge the £30,000 sanction imposed on Klopp for his red card against Manchester City as it seeks a stronger punishment. Klopp was fined by an independent regulatory commission after accepting a charge of improper conduct for haranguing the assistant referee Gary Beswick during Liverpool’s 1-0 win over City on 16 October.
The FA and the Liverpool manager could appeal against the punishment after reviewing the commission’s written reasons and, with Klopp having avoided a touchline ban, the former has confirmed it will challenge the sanction.