Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said he is the “wrong person” to ask about the staging of the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar amid concerns over the country’s human rights record, including the continuing illegality of homosexuality in the Gulf state.
European champions Liverpool face CONCACAF Champions League winners Monterrey in Wednesday’s Club World Cup semifinal in Doha as they attempt to be crowned world champions for the first time, with Klopp confirming that Virgil van Dijk is fit to play after missing training on Monday.
FIFA’s decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup, and this year’s Club World Cup, continues to be mired in controversy due to issues relating to the treatment of migrant workers and laws that affect the LGBT community, which include prison sentences of up to seven years for those prosecuted for being homosexual.
But while Klopp said he has an opinion on the issue, the German insisted in Doha that athletes should not be forced to justify decisions made by governing bodies such as FIFA.
“I have an opinion on football, but this is a real serious thing to talk about I think and the answers should come from people who know more about it,” Klopp said. “I have to be influential in football, but not in politics.
“Anything I say wouldn’t help, it would just create another headline, positive or negative.
“I, like you, ask the question [about human rights] but I think I am the wrong person [to answer it].
“Organising the competition, wherever it is, they [FIFA] have to think about it. Athletes shouldn’t.
“We represent Liverpool, we are invited so we should go there. If sportsmen have to make a decision about a competition, wherever it is in the world, that is not right.
“My personal opinion, I have one of course, I think we should all be treated equally that is clear.
“But we don’t have the time to judge things when we are here, we only have time for training.
“You have to respect the rules of different countries, I have to respect the rules of England when I am there, it is only cultural but that’s how it is.”
From a football perspective, Klopp has been critical of the number of games his players have been forced to play in all competitions this season.
And due to the workload, the club have sent a youth team to Aston Villa for Tuesday’s Carabao Cup quarterfinal in order to send a full squad to Qatar.
Although Klopp insisted Liverpool are determined to win the Club World Cup, he said that FIFA and UEFA cannot continue to add competitions to an already packed calendar.
“We are really focused on it, but if you had asked me beforehand if I think there should be a Club World Cup in the middle of our season I would say no,” Klopp said. “But we are here and so it is the most important competition in the world
“Can it be bigger in the future? I don’t know. If we try to push it in between other competitions. I think the FIFA plans a team world cup in the summer , but it is a summer when African Nations is as well and other competitions.
“They all have to sit around a table and talk about the competitions not being at the same time.
“From the organisation point of view, everyone needs to think about it. FIFA cannot plan a tournament in the summer and then UEFA says ‘We’ll have one as well.’
“It is not too easy. You need to find a common language and talk about it. You cannot just add on tournaments, that doesn’t work.”