England manager Gareth Southgate insists he cannot allow his squad to get ’embroiled in the negativity’ surrounding host nation Qatar ahead of the World Cup.
Qatar has faced continuous scrutiny over its treatment of the LGBTQ+ community and women, the deaths of migrant workers, and the country’s ability to host the tournament.
Players and managers alike have been questioned over the issues and the football itself has become something of a sideshow.
Southgate says that while the Three Lions understand the controversy, they must find a positive perspective to thrive in Qatar ahead of their opening match against Iran on Monday.
The England boss told talkSPORT: “We’re trying to excite the players about a World Cup.
“For at least 12 months, they have had to answers questions on any range of subjects that we’ve tried to handle as well as we can and educate ourselves as well as we can.
“But they want to focus on representing their country in a major football tournament, understandably, and I’m the same.
“So we’re trying to excite them rather than get embroiled in negativity around the tournament, which is completely understandable, but not a mindset we can sink into if we’re to be excited about being here and trying to win a World Cup for our country.”
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In the years after awarding the tournament to Qatar, FIFA took the unprecedented decision to stage this World Cup in winter for the first time ever due to the Middle Eastern country’s unplayable heat in summer.
The last round of Premier League fixtures finished seven days ago, giving Southgate a tiny window to prepare with his squad, while the likes of Reece James and Ben Chilwell suffered tournament-ending injuries during the hectic schedule.
But again, Southgate is trying to focus on the positives.
He said: “I think we’re really looking forward to it. It’s different to normal for a tournament because you usually get between two-and-a-half to four weeks to prepare.
“But by the same token, part of that is physical preparation, because you’ve had a gap at the end of the season and you’re trying to keep the players in good condition.
“You end up with friendlies you don’t learn much from and players protecting themselves from injury.
“We’ve tried to look at the positives of the shorter preparation.”
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