USMNT sees the big picture with the World Cup in Qatar

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Football players do not have the right to choose the place world Cup I played. If they did, Qatar likely wouldn’t appear on many of the top ten lists.

Put aside the logistical headache of rallying 32 teams and hundreds of thousands of fans in one metro area for a tournament that usually takes place in at least 10 cities. Don’t care about the championship, I’ve been bumped from summer to winter – a slap in the middle of most league seasons – because of the Arab heat.

The broader concern at FIFA Choosing the suspect Qatar Hosts This Year’s Championship Centers on the Country’s Human Rights Record: Migrant Workers Trapped in a Restricted Employment System Known as bail. Hundreds dead It is said to be related to stadium and infrastructure projects; gender inequality; And the Illegal homosexuality.

In about five months, United States men’s national team He will arrive in Doha with the goal of winning the group stage matches and qualifying for the knockout stage. It is a realistic goal. Of the four teams vying for two spots in the Round of 16, only England ranked highest.

Off the field, though, players say they see the big picture and plan to use the platform provided by the planet’s most popular sporting event to highlight human rights issues.

“This is a group that has always been brave,” defender Walker Zimmerman said last week during a training camp in Cincinnati. “We are taking opportunities in this camp to talk, are there steps we want to take in Qatar? Are there things we want to do? We definitely want to be leaders, and stand up for what we believe in.”

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The players say talks will continue during the remainder of this camp, which ends after a June 14 visit to El Salvador, and will resume again in September when the team meets in Europe for a week. Between them, the essence of the team lies in regular communication.

They say they recognize the fine line in speaking in public with respect for their hosts.

“It’s obviously a different country with a different set of rules, but this group has always been adamant about change, always spreading the word out there,” said right-back Reggie Cannon.

Starting in November 2020 in Wales, it was the team’s first game since the coronavirus pandemic began and social justice protests ignited in the United States and spread across the world. With “Be the Change” plastered on the front of their warm-up jackets, players clasped their arms during the national anthem. “Be the Change” has become their motto and message.

A month later, they chose individual letters on the back of their jackets. Among the choices were “Black Players for Change”, “Unity” and “We All Equal”.

“Men take it very seriously and really believe that if we want to change, it’s up to the individual to take responsibility for it,” coach Greg Berhalter said at the time.

It is a conscientious group, fueled in part by its diversity. In the current camp, 17 of the 26 players are black or Latino. Midfielder Weston McKinney has been vocal about racial issues and goalkeeper Zach Stephen, who isn’t in that camp, launched a foundation designed to help athletes who want to speak up on equality issues and contribute to “high-risk minority communities”, According to her website.

On Sunday, the players issued a letter Demanding Congress to take action on gun violence.

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“We are an incredibly diverse group made up of many backgrounds, and it’s a common cause we can all believe in,” Zimmerman said. “When we have the unity that we have, we want to influence the United States on and off the field.”

Players believe they can make a difference abroad, too.

When asked about making their voices heard before and during the World Cup, McKinney said, “We’ve definitely been in the discussions. He started over a year ago and brought in people to tell us everything that’s going on. [in Qatar]. We will certainly discuss within the team what kind of gestures and things we want to do in the World Cup and in the lead up to the World Cup.”

The US Soccer Association provided experts to educate players about Qatar and engage with them in potential efforts to raise awareness of the issues surrounding the event.

To ensure fair labor practices, the USSF said it has appointed a compliance officer to screen the Qatari vendors and companies they will contract with during their multi-week stay.

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“They have given us a lot of education on the issues going on there,” right-back DeAndre Yedlin said of the union. “Now we’ve made [global] The theater. We will be there. We’ll see what action we can take to help change, help make change happen, and make change happen. It’s ultimately more than sport.”

Other national teams have used their popularity to make statements. Before the qualifiers in March 2021, German players lined up To illustrate “human rights” with T-shirts, the Norwegian players wore T-shirts that said, “Human rights on and off the field”.

FIFA, which usually resents such actions, has not regulated either team, suggesting that it would somewhat condone the World Cup protests.

Zimmerman said the US players “will decide as a group.” [whether] there [are] Steps we can take, and these talks will continue until November.”

For Cannon, raising awareness of the issues in Qatar is an extension of the efforts he believes athletes should make while holding a captive audience.

“I might not have that platform later on to shed light on the problems I’ve been through, that my community has struggled with,” Cannon said. “It’s important to look at the grand scheme of things. I know there’s always been a discussion about leaving politics out of sport, but what I can do to help contribute to this world is to use my platform that I’ve brought together with the people I’ve dealt with through my experiences and shed light on the social issues he faces. Everyone in this world.”