‘We all let it happen’: Jurgen Klopp left ‘angry’ over Qatar World Cup

“The situation makes you angry. How can it not?” asked Jurgen Klopp. It is no secret that he is a critic of a winter World Cup, but his anger was not merely a consequence of the congested fixture list or the injuries that seem to have resulted from it.

The Liverpool manager is aggrieved about the initial award of the tournament to Qatar, amid a backdrop of alleged corruption within the Qatari bid that continues to be denied. There is also the lack of scrutiny he feels their bid attracted both before it succeeded and since, and the human rights implications of building stadia in the scorching heat of the summer. He feels it is unfair to ask footballers and managers to make political stances when he believes the media failed. He laments the controversial vote in 2010, to the subterfuge and lack of accountability when many of the 21 voters were indicted or found guilty of corruption or banned for ethics violations.

“I watched an old documentary about the whole situation, about when it got announced that Russia and Qatar are the places for the next World Cups,” he said. “I think it was the first time in history they announced two in one go. We all know how it happened and that we can still let it happen, with no legal thing afterwards. Now it is open, now everybody knows, but still it was hidden and you think: ‘How can that all happen?’ It was 12 years ago. It’s nothing to do with Qatar. They won the World Cup and now it is there. But in the moment you put it there, all the things that followed it up were clear. And the people who were involved at that time should have known.

“Later on we talk about human rights in terms of the people who have to work there in circumstances that are, let me say it nicely, difficult. We couldn’t play the World Cup there in the summer because of the temperature and there was not one stadium in Qatar, or maybe one. So you have to build stadiums. I don’t think anybody thought about that on that day, that somebody has to build them. It’s not like Aladdin with his wonder lamp and ‘Boom, there’s a new stadium’.”

Klopp will go on holiday rather than sitting in one of those stadia at the World Cup. He will tune in but is not enthused, both because of the timing and the issues. He dislikes the ways players are being pressured into taking stances, feeling they are proxies while others have ducked the bigger questions.

“I will watch it from a football point of view but I don’t like the fact that players now have to send a message,” he addressed his audience. “You are all journalists. You should have sent the message but you didn’t write the most critical articles about circumstances that were clear. There we are guilty. But now we are telling players they have to wear an armband and if they don’t do it then they are not on their side. No, no, no; these are footballers, it is a tournament and the players must go there and play and do the best for their countries. It is nothing to do with the circumstances.

“I already see it in interviews all the time: ‘How is it being here?’ It is all not OK for the players, I really have to say that. It is a tournament, we all let it happen, but it is there, fine, because 12 years ago nobody did anything and we cannot change it now.

“Let them play the game as players and managers. Don’t put Gareth Southgate constantly in a situation where he has to talk about everything. He has an opinion but he’s not a politician, I’m not a politician, he’s a manager of England so let him do that. If you want to write about something else then do it, but by yourself without asking us so that it’s ‘Klopp said’ or ‘Southgate said’. As if that would change anything. You more than I let it happen 12 years ago.”

People walk past Fifa World Cup banners at a beach in Doha (AFP via Getty Images)
People walk past Fifa World Cup banners at a beach in Doha (AFP via Getty Images)

Klopp took issue with the counter-argument that some in the media have done more than most in football to highlight the problems. “But not then,” he insisted. “How is it possible at that time that it was just a story about it happening? It was already clear what would happen and then you follow it up with, ‘Oh yes, it is difficult to build a stadium in Qatar and it is 50 degrees’. It’s impossible for humans to be out there doing hard physical work. There were plenty of chances in the next three or four years to say the process was not right and a lot of people took money for the wrong reasons.”

He drew a distinction between the largely disgraced collection of Fifa dignitaries who voted and players and managers. “They were football politicians,” he said. “The Brazilian guy [former Fifa executive committee member Ricardo Teixeira, who was named in court as a beneficiary of bribery]. Do you really think we did enough in the first place?

“Now we are making a story about it when it is about to happen and putting players under pressure about what they will do. Asking Harry Kane if he will wear the armband, the other guys [Fifa, in a letter to teams this week] saying: ‘Please don’t make political statements.’ That’s not okay. It was organised by other people and we all let it happen. Everything was on the table. But still Mr Blatter came out of it somehow, and others as well. It was that long ago that some of the worst guys died already. We could have sorted it long ago.”