BBC football commentator John Murray has said the issues surrounding the FIFA World Cup in Qatar must not get overlooked once attention shifts to action on the pitch.
Qatar has come under worldwide fire for the treatment of migrant workers employed to build stadiums for the tournament and for its treatment of same-sex couples.
There have been 37 deaths among workers directly linked to construction of World Cup stadiums but The Guardian has reported that at least 6,500 migrant workers have died in the state since it won the right to host the World Cup 10 years ago.
Speaking to students at Leeds Trinity University Journalism and Media Week 2022, John recalled the moment he learned that Qatar was to host the World Cup.
“I think it was 2010 and I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t believe that Qatar had been awarded the World Cup and at that stage we didn’t even know what we know now.”
John however did predict that once the action gets underway attention will shift to matters on the pitch but speaking out about the circumstances around this World Cup must not be ditched and put to one side.
“The football will kind of take care of itself and there will be very close scrutiny on what’s happening and how things are on the ground, but I feel it’s important as well during the course of the actual event to make sure that we don’t overlook this.”
John has worked with every England manager this century, from Kevin Keegan right up to Gareth Southgate and on a human level, he cannot speak highly enough of the man who currently occupies the Three Lions hot seat.
“He is as human a football manager as I have dealt with, and I think that is the best thing you can say about him because it’s an incredibly pressured job being a football manager whether it is club or international level and yet he manages to retain great human qualities.”
Wales are attending their first World Cup since 1958 and will meet England in the final round of group stage fixtures, John also had praise for the job Southgate’s opposite number, Rob Page has done for the Welsh team.
“What he’s done in the circumstances, taking over as he did having worked with Ryan Giggs. But he’s got an air of confidence and ability about him that I think many might not necessarily have expected and you just have to look at his record as well and that is way and beyond what Wales have experienced for decades and decades.”
When asked to predict a winner of the tournament, John is backing one of the all-time greats of the game to top off his career in style.
“I’m going to for winners – a sentimental Argentina.
“If Argentina are going to win it let’s go for Lionel Messi (to win the golden boot).”
John is also tipping The Netherlands to have a good tournament in Qatar. The Dutch are attending their first World Cup since 2014 having failed to qualify in Russia four years ago.
“A dark horse I think will be The Netherlands although not terribly dark more orange.”
John will inevitably commentate on the final of the tournament and he kept his cards close to his chest when asked if he has prepared a line for if England or Wales were to bring the trophy home.
“Were that scenario to come around in Qatar and it would be either England or Wales then I would have a better idea on the morning of the final.”