Jurgen Klopp says players should not have to answer questions on Qatar’s eligibility to host the World Cup, and insists the football world, in particular the media, did not criticise the 2010 bid award enough.
Klopp has been vocal in his opposition to hosting a World Cup in Qatar in the middle of a domestic season, but believes the players should not be caught in the middle of the political debate.
There have been calls by advocacy groups for players to engage in debate about the host nation’s record on human rights, alleged mistreatment of migrant workers and legal prohibition of same-sex relationships. FIFA, though, has written to World Cup teams asking them to focus on football, not lecturing on morality.
Captains from nine European countries, including England and Wales, are planning on wearing OneLove armbands at the World Cup as part of an anti-discrimination initiative, and in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference ahead of Liverpool’s trip to Tottenham on Super Sunday, the German said he would not be going to the World Cup, and said the issues that are being raised now should have been raised when Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2010.
Read the full transcript from his seven-minute exchange with journalists on the Qatar World Cup below:
Journalist: “Are you as enthused, as a football fan, about this World Cup as you would normally be?”
Journalist: “Is that because of the timing or the issues around it?”
Klopp: “Both. I will watch the games anyway, but it is different. I watched an old documentary about the whole situation.
“When it got announced that Russia and Qatar are the next places for the next two World Cups, I think it was the first time in history that they announced two in one. We all know how it happened and how you can still let it happen.
“No legal thing afterwards really led to a… , ‘Now it’s open, now everybody knows’. It was still hidden everywhere and you think, ‘Wow, how could they let that happen?’. It’s 12 years ago, and now it’s coming.
“It’s nothing to do with Qatar and they want the World Cup, now it’s there. At the moment you put it there, it was all the things which followed up were clear. The people at that time, everybody that was involved, should have known.
“At that moment that we later talk about human rights in the sense of people have to work there in circumstances which are, putting it nicely, difficult.
“We couldn’t play the World Cup there in the summer because of the temperature, [but] it’s now pretty hot [there].
“There was not one stadium in Qatar, maybe one, so they had to build stadiums there. Nobody thought about that, I don’t think anybody mentioned that that day. So somebody had to build them because they don’t just poof [out of thin air], and there’s a new stadium.
“That’s the situation, and it can just make you angry. How can you not?
“Again, I watch it from a football point of view and I don’t like that players, from time to time, get in a situation where they have to send a message. You are all journalists, you should have sent a message. You didn’t write the most critical article about it – and not because it is Qatar and things. No. About the circumstances, which was clear.
“There we are guilty. Now we are telling the players you have to wear this armband and if you don’t do it you are not on their side and if you do it you are on their side. No, no it is footballers, it is a tournament, and we have to organise it. Players go there and play and do the best for their countries, it has nothing to do with the circumstances.
“I see already in the news, ‘How is it being here?’, and this kind of thing and it is all not OK for the players. It’s a tournament, it’s there, and we all let it happen and it’s fine because 12 years ago nobody did anything then. We cannot change it now, go there.
“There are wonderful people there and it’s not at all that everything is bad. It’s just how it happened was not right in the first place. But now it is there, let them play the games, let them just play the games, the players and managers. And don’t just put Gareth Southgate constantly in a situation where he has to talk about everything. He is not a politician, he is the manager of England. Let him do that.
“If you want to write something else about it then do it, but do it by yourself rather than just asking us and all these kind of things – ‘Klopp said’ and ‘Southgate said’ – as if it would change anything. We all, you more than I, let it happen 12 years ago.”
Journalist: “I would say the media has done more to expose the human rights issues.”
Klopp: “But not then, not then”.
Journalist: “More than the football community has.”
Klopp: “How is it possible? In that time it was just a story that it happens and there it was already clear what would happen.
“Following it up and thinking, ‘It’s difficult to build the stadiums in Qatar because you have to build them in their summer’, and it’s 50 degrees or whatever in the summer. That is not good for humans to be outside [in that temperature] and do hard physical work, it’s actually impossible. Nobody of all these guys and there would have been plenty of time in the next four years to say, ‘The process was not right, a lot of people took money for the wrong reason’.
Journalist: “There was a lot of…”
Klopp: “I know that happened but nothing changed.”
Journalist: “Football people in the first place made the decision, on FIFA.”
Klopp: “No, they were football politicians. Now again you feel personally – I see in your face that you feel personally blamed by me because I mentioned journalists should have done more. Look at your body language, how you sit now there? Honestly.” [Klopp imitates one of the journalists]
“‘No, we did. But nothing happened. The football people did’.
“Do you really think that we did enough in the first place? Now making a story of it, now when it’s happened, now coming out of a corner and getting now players under pressure?
“That is what you will do with questioning these kinds of things, with asking these kinds of questions, with asking Harry Kane if he will wear [the rainbow armband], with Harry Kane saying he will wear it. The other guys say, ‘Please, don’t make political statements’. That’s not OK.
“The thing is organised by other people and I don’t say you let it happen, but we all let it happen.
“That time it was everything on the table, everything was on the table. Still, somehow, Mr (Sepp) Blatter came out of it and others as well. It’s that long ago that some of the worst guys have died already. It was that long ago when we could have sorted it.
“It’s not to say anything about Qatar, they want the World Cup for whatever reason, that’s fine. I want a lot of things and don’t get them and carry on with it. We can’t have everything. I will watch the games of course. but yes it is different to other World Cups.”