England stars on Thursday met with migrant workers at their training base in defiance of Fifa’s order for teams to “focus on the football” at the World Cup.
Gareth Southgate’s players posed for pictures and went through drills with the workers without whom the tournament starting on Sunday would not have been possible.
The host country has faced criticism over the treatment of migrant workers who were hired to build the stadiums. Qatar denies reports more than 6,500 died.
The Football Association described the meeting as an “engagement session” but its timing and relevance were being viewed as significant.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino wrote to teams urging them not to let the sport be dragged into ideological or political “battles”.
“Please, let’s now focus on the football!”, he said. “We know football does not live in a vacuum and we are equally aware that there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all around the world.”
However, England coach Gareth Southgate said it was “highly unlikely” that he would follow Fifa’s guidance to focus solely on football during the tournament.
The Three Lions arrived in Qatar on Tuesday on a Virgin Atlantic jet celebrating gay pride. Homosexual acts are illegal in the desert kingdom, punishable by seven years in jail or even death.
Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish, Mason Mount, Declan Rice, Harry Maguire and Ben White were among the squad looking fighting fit today as they trained at their Al Wakrah HQ in sweltering midday temperatures of 33C.
England Training Session for FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar | 17th November 2022
However, midfielder James Maddison did not train with team-mates as a precaution. The 25-year-old limped out of Leicester City’s weekend win over West Ham but travelled to the Middle East.
England start their campaign against Iran on Monday afternoon in the Khalifa International Stadium.
Meanwhile, the £370-a-day cabin-style accommodation that has been erected for their fans was today described as “like hell”.
Around 3,000 to 4,000 Three Lions supporters plus another 3,000 cheering on Wales are likely to travel to Qatar. Many will stay at the specially-erected cabins at Ras Bu Fontas, which have en-suite bathrooms, air conditioning and tea and coffee-making facilities.
However, a British contractor who has been at the site in Doha told The Times: “The air con in the cabin barely works and sounds like a [fighter jet] is taking off. Even if you have it on all the time during the day it is still 27C.
“You can’t have it on at night because it is so noisy.”
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