Wales players ‘free to speak out’ about Qatar human rights concerns
Wales football players will be free to speak out on issues including migrant worker abuses and LGBTQ+ rights during the World Cup in Qatar, the Football Association of Wales has said.
Players were briefed on matters relating to the host nation’s human rights record after their last match against Poland in September, Mark Evans FAW’s head of international affairs told reporters on Tuesday.
He said members of the squad raised concerns they had during the meeting, and were told they had free rein to be outspoken about such topics during the tournament’s press conferences.
The Cymru team is said to be “determined” to wear the One Love armbands in support of the LGBTQ+ community whether the move is sanctioned by Fifa or not.
Mr Evans confirmed they had not yet heard back from football’s governing body yet on the matter, just weeks away from the start of the competition.
He said there are currently no plans to release a joint statement criticising Qatar’s actions or laws, as the Australian national team did last week, but said the team would be having a meeting on November 13 and that any decision could be taken then.
Footballers with family, including wives and girlfriends, flying out to support them were also said to want to know more about policies around how women should behave and what they should wear.
“We had a briefing with players after the last game with Poland and they were told they will have a forum to speak on any topic they want during press conferences,” Mr Evans said.
One Love campaign
“We are confirmed supporters of the One Love campaign and we’ll be wearing the arm bands.
“The team is determined to wear them.
“It’s very important to us,” he added.
“We have a WhatsApp group with the players where they can keep asking questions and we post news stories that pop up that we think that they should be aware of,” Mr Evans said.
“Some might choose to say something during press conferences, others won’t, it’s up to them.
“They like us want all the fans coming over to feel as safe and welcome as possible.”
Mr Evans said the team had close links with The Rainbow Wall, the team’s LGBTQ+ supporters group, and had been in communication with the organisation in the run-up to the World Cup.
He said a “significant” number of FAW staff had chosen not to go to Qatar in person because of the country’s stance on gay rights.
Mr Evans added: “The red wall have a proud reputation particularly with how inclusive they are and how they embrace other cultures.
“We will all be going out there with a positive outlook wanting to be a positive force during the World Cup.”
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