Germany midfielder Toni Kroos criticizes World Cup in Qatar

BERLIN (AP) — Germany midfielder Toni Kroos said it was “wrong” that Qatar was awarded next year’s World Cup and added that it could be appropriate to highlight human rights issues during the tournament.

Kroos’ comments go beyond the criticism from several national teams, including Germany and Norway, which tried to draw attention to human rights issues ahead of recent World Cup qualifying matches.

“For this tournament to be awarded there, I consider that wrong,” Kroos said on a podcast released Tuesday that he hosts with his brother.

Kroos flagged up the working conditions for migrant workers, saying they were often “working without breaks, sometimes in 50-degree (Celsius) heat” without enough drinking water. He also noted anti-gay laws in the country and claimed Qatar is “not a soccer country.” Qatar won the Asian Cup in 2019.

Kroos, who was on the German team which won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, said a boycott campaign was unlikely to have much effect but drawing attention to human rights issues during the tournament could help.

“You have to ask the question: What would a boycott of a tournament like this bring? Is it really the case that something would drastically improve there? Would the working conditions change? I believe not,” Kroos said.

“Rather, I believe that it is important to draw extreme attention to these problems once again, perhaps also maybe in advance of or during a tournament like this, so that maybe something can be improved because of that.”

Kroos, who plays for Real Madrid, is not currently with the German team because of injury.

Norway began a movement of human rights demonstrations by wearing shirts reading “HUMAN RIGHTS” and “Respect on and off the pitch” before its game against Gibraltar last Wednesday. Germany followed up with its own human rights messages before games, though its players and staff avoided directly criticizing Qatar, and teams like Belgium and the Netherlands have followed.

“It’s really important that FIFA .. and individual teams and players use their influence to keep pressing the Qatari authorities to follow through on promised labor reforms,” said Kate Allen of Amnesty International, which is not calling for a boycott of the World Cup. “Football likes to see itself as a force for good in the world, and with Qatar 2022 there’s a real chance for elite football to make its mark.”

Germany’s latest message came ahead of kickoff against North Macedonia in Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier. The players held up a banner saying “We are for 30,” a reference to the 30 articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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