Eamon Dunphy was the headline guest on Friday night's Late Late Show, and he rightly drew praise after an emotional speech defending the right of gay people to play football, ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.
The 2022 World Cup has been mired by the choice of Qatar as hosts, in part due to the country's stance on LGBTQ+ rights. Same-sex relationships are outlawed and, in some cases, punishable by death in the Gulf state, and high-level footballers have raised their concerns on the tournament being held in such a place.
Ahead of kick-off in Qatar on Sunday, Eamon Dunphy spoke up for the rights of LGBTQ+ people, condemning the corruption in soccer and encouraging the sport to do more to make minority communities feel welcome.
Eamon Dunphy stands up for rights of gay footballers on Late Late Show
We have to say, we're gutted that Eamon Dunphy won't be on our screens for the 2022 World Cup as part of RTÉ's punditry team. His outspoken nature is famed, but his insight and passion for the game cannot be denied either, and he was a crucial part of the broadcaster's appeal over the past 30 years.
On the eve of the first World Cup without Dunphy in decades, he appeared on the Late Late Show to speak about the tournament, which is happening under a cloud due to the human rights abuses continuing to take place in host nation Qatar.
The LGBTQ+ community are dramatically affected by backward policies, which outlaw sex between two men or sex between two women, with sex between two Muslim men punishable by death by stoning.
Speaking on Friday night's broadcast from RTÉ, Eamon Dunphy condemned the decision to bring the World Cup to a nation with such backward thinking towards the community, and encouraged the footballing community to do more to actively welcome gay footballers.
‘People should be respected for what they are as human beings, not what they do in their private lives’ - Eamon Dunphy outlines Qatar’s attitude towards homosexuality on @RTELateLateShow ahead of the World Cup pic.twitter.com/vXseEhLLZG
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) November 18, 2022
He pointed out the success of members of the LGBTQ+ community in women's sport here in Ireland, and was clearly emotional when advocating for the rights of gay footballers:
Soccer needs to stop this corruption. It needs to support workers' rights and it needs to encourage, to do everything, to get gay people to come and play.
Look at the women's soccer team here, qualified for the World Cup, it's fantastic. Look at Kellie Harrington and what she's done.
If any player in the Premier League came out, his life would be hell. Therefore, no one has ever come out - except one.
We have to, as a sport, encourage people to come and to embrace it.
Awarding [the World Cup] to a country with Qatar's attitude to gay people is doing the exact opposite. We have an Irish gay team - but they shouldn't have to be in a team, they should be in every team. People should be respected for what they are as human beings, not what they do in their private lives.
It was a powerful moment, and proof once again of Dunphy's eloquence and passion.
The next month will be tough for gay fans of football, as they grapple with whether to watch a tournament taking place in a country which they may not even feel safe visiting. One can only hope that Eamon Dunphy is not alone at the top level of football, and that change is accelerated to improve the visibility of and welcome afforded to members of the LGBTQ+ community in the game.