Ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup getting underway in just over a week, there continues to be a dark cloud hanging over the tournament.
The decision to hold the event in Qatar was a controversial one at the time, with the choice of venue looking continually worse as the years have advanced. The human rights issue in the country have been well discussed, and that is without even mentioning other elements such as the mid-season calendar slot and the corruption which led to them being awarded the tournament in the first place.
It is understandable why some are far less excited about this edition of what is supposed to be the flagship event in world football. Some are event opting to boycott it altogether.
Stephen Kenny justifies decision to travel to Qatar
Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny is not one to shy away from discussing social issues, doing so on a number of occasions during his time in charge of both Dundalk and the national team.
He will be travelling to the World Cup later this month once his duties with Ireland have been completed, taking in games involving Euro 2024 qualifying opponents France and Netherlands.
When speaking at yesterday's squad announcement, he was asked about his decision to travel to the Middle East despite the clear issues with the tournament. He admitted that while this was a valid question, he felt obliged to go in order to best fulfil his duties as manager by scouting upcoming opposition (h/t RTÉ).
It’s a valid question. I think it’s something we have to consider.
[It was a] surprise when two World Cup were handed out to Russia and Qatar together… the decision around that. What (the) criteria was based on giving World Cup to Qatar at that time was questionable. No doubt about that.
What do boycotts achieve going back to the Olympics in Russia and America. By me going am I going to influence anything? I probably amn’t.
For me, [it’s] for football reasons. I’m only there for five nights, get to see France twice, Holland. Eight games, five nights and that’s it. And I’m out of it.
I’m employed to do the job to the best of my ability. And I’m not doing it right if I’m not getting the opportunity to see the teams there.
I see all the arguments as well. Where do we go with Saudi Arabia… mass beheading… we’ve seen that in recent times. Treatment of women in Iran. Where do we go with all that? Where do we draw the line and where do we not? Big questions overall.
France will face Australia, Denmark, and Tunisia in their group, while the Netherlands have been paired with Senegal, Ecuador, and the hosts Qatar.
They will provide a formidable opposition for Ireland in their Euro qualifying campaign, which will open with a French visit to Dublin in March.