Manuel Neuer: “We will fly the flag in Qatar.”

The German national team arrived in Muscat, Oman, on Monday evening as they prepare for their World Cup campaign with a short training camp. There has been numerous criticisms surrounding the tournament and in an interview with Express, Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer it the latest player to speak out.

How do you manage to concentrate on the sporting events and at the same time be a responsible national player?

“It’s definitely a balancing act for us. And that’s not easy either. There used to be topics at major events besides sport: the townships of South Africa, the favelas in Brazil, Russia, the Winter Olympics in Beijing. We’re getting closer and closer to the tournament and then suddenly one of Qatar’s World Cup ambassadors is speaking in this absolutely unacceptable way. Of course, as footballers, we want to focus on sports – namely on a World Cup. This is the biggest tournament you can play!”

What does that mean specifically?

“We will fly the flag in Qatar. We will represent our values there. The question is: what are the consequences if we position ourselves very offensively there? You don’t know that either. Nobody can see into the future. That’s why I’m firmly assuming that we will position ourselves as the German national team and the DFB. We’ve done that in the past too but in what way it will be the case now, none of us know yet.”

FIFA wrote to all 32 competing teams telling them to “now focus on the football,” but given the issues, this seems impossible. Thousands of foreign workers have died and Qatar’s laws discriminate against LGBTQ people and women, prompting players and nations to highlight the ongoing issues.

Former teammate of Neuer, Philipp Lahm, launched an attack on FIFA in his column for Zeit Online, stating that the organisation has damaged football by handing the tournament to a Middle East country.

Germany start their campaign against Japan on November 23 before games against Spain (November 27) and Costa Rica (December 1). Winners of Group E will then play runners-up of Group F on December 5 and the runners-up of Group E will play the winners of Group F the following day – Group F contains Belgium, Canada, Morocco and Croatia.

GGFN | Daniel Pinder

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