England’s Eric Dier has described the “terrible situation” for migrant workers in Qatar as disappointing and said that controversies away from the pitch have diluted some of his excitement about the World Cup.
While the official number of worker deaths during preparations for the tournament has been put at three, according to the Qataris and the Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, that figure has been disputed by human rights organisations. It has been reported that the real number of worker deaths linked to World Cup projects in Qatar will never be known.
The issue over human rights has cast a shadow over the tournament and Dier, who pointed out that the decision to award the World Cup to Qatar had nothing to do with the players and coaches, has felt compelled to learn more about the situation in the host country.
“It’s very difficult for players,” the England centre-back said. “We come here and know these topics are going to be addressed. I was looking today because I thought I would probably get this kind of question.
“The World Cup was awarded to Qatar in 2010. I was 16 at the time. We have absolutely no say in where we play. Those decisions are made by people way above us and we’re the ones who end up answering these kind of questions. It’s disappointing. I carry the values I’ve been given by my family. At the same time I respect wherever I go.
“We’ve been here a very short time so for me it’s important to live this experience and have a much better idea of what to say on it. A lot of things have already happened – a lot of things are very disappointing. Those will always be in my mind. But as a team we carry certain values and no matter where we go we’ll carry those values. At the same time we’ll respect everywhere we go.”
Dier, who is a contender to start when England face Iran in their opening game in Group B on Monday, was asked what he found disappointing. “I’m talking about the buildings of the stadiums,” he replied. “It’s a terrible situation. Things have happened in the past, but as players we have no influence on these decisions. It’s a World Cup and I’m extremely proud to be a part of a team. We’re extremely proud to be here to represent our country. We are footballers – not politicians.”
The controversies have muted Dier’s excitement. “We’re talking about it instead of talking about football, so of course it’s taking a lot of that away,” he said. “But we can’t hide from it. It would be wrong to ignore it.”
England’s players will discuss whether to take the knee before kicking off against Iran. The squad has always looked to speak out on societal issues and Dier was in a thoughtful mood as he addressed the media. The Tottenham defender was even asked if he could see himself becoming involved in football administration after he retires.
“I am 28,” he said. “I have a long time to play. I am very interested. I have this conversation a lot with friends within football about the future. I am definitely interested in staying in football. It is my passion. I am not really into politics too much. I don’t know if I have the right thing for it. It is really important that football is in the right hands and looked after in the right way because it means so much to so many people.”