Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen have questioned Qatar hosting the World Cup and the human rights issues surrounding the country ahead of the tournament’s start next week.
The duo will represent Portugal and Denmark respectively in the tournament, which opens with hosts Qatar facing Ecuador on November 20.
But controversy has surrounded Qatar’s hosting of the finals since they were awarded in 2010, with the country’s criminalisation of same-sex relationships among the issues which have caused the most concern.
The build-up has also been dogged by concerns about the suffering of low-paid migrant workers employed to build the infrastructure in the Gulf nation.
Last week FIFA wrote to World Cup teams urging them to focus on the tournament in Qatar and not lecture on morality and bring football “into every ideological or political battle that exists”.
But speaking after United’s 2-1 win at Fulham on Super Sunday, Fernandes told Sky Sports: “We’ve seen the surroundings over the past few weeks and months and about people who have died on the construction of the stadiums. We are not happy for that.
“We want football to be for everyone and get everyone included and involved in the World Cup. It’s the World Cup, it’s for everyone. Doesn’t matter who. These kinds of things I think should not happen at any time.
“But for a World Cup that is more than football, it’s a party for fans and players, and a joy to watch, should be done in a better way.”
Eriksen, who will join his Denmark team-mates in Qatar only 17 months after he collapsed on the pitch during Euro 2020 last summer, added: “I’ve worked hard for the World Cup and can’t wait for it. It’s been mentioned a lot. No matter where it is, it’s football. We’ve qualified, and we’re just going to play football.
“I totally agree with Bruno. There’s a lot of focus on it, how the World Cup has happened and why it’s in Qatar. It hasn’t gone the right way.
“We are footballers, politics is about something above us to make that decision. We try to say our thing and do what we can. We want to get focused on it but the change has to come from somewhere else.”
Saha: Players aren’t ambassadors
Former Man Utd and France striker Louis Saha was a guest in the Super Sunday studio and said it was not easy for players to throw their full weight behind condemnation of the World Cup and court controversy as a result – but added it was unfair to expect them to act as ambassadors for the competition.
He said: “It’s going to be a very controversial World Cup. People have different ways of protecting their true opinions because ultimately they’re footballers so they have to remain very cautious.
“It will be difficult due to the conditions and we’ve already heard stories and so players feel they have to comment. There have been decisions taken away from people who love football.
“Nowadays, there needs to be more transparency in football. It’s hard on the players having to be ambassadors – it’s unfair.”
Sky Sports’ Jamie Redknapp, who represented England at the Euro 96 finals, said: “It’s not going to be easy as everyone has got their own views. We all know it shouldn’t be in Qatar but it’s too late now.
“We have to try to make the best of it but it’s not in the correct environment. There’s nothing we can do now.”