No love for FIFA as armband wars spread

“In the conversations I’ve had with people from the LGBTI community, they have described the messaging as vague, lacking a real kind of statement of what it’s trying to achieve,” Irvine said.

“There will be a time to dissect how those messages have gone out and the way they chose to do it. All I can say is I’m proud of our squad and the clear position we took coming into this tournament.

Jackson Irvine in action against France.Credit:Getty

“There was no possibility of having that (last-minute regulation changes) thrown at us at a late stage. That’s why we chose what we did and the timing of it.

“It’s a tough one to try and deal with while you’re focusing on performance and playing for your country.”

Irvine said the Socceroos’ stance had concentrated on Qatar because that was where they were and where the eyes of the world were now fixed. Next year, Australia and New Zealand host the women’s FIFA World Cup and Irvine acknowledged that it would be hypocritical to stay silent then.

“This has been a journey for the national players to making the statement we made,” he said. “I hope it’s something that as a team we continue to talk about.

Sports Minister Anika Wells threw her support behind the Socceroos after their statement on Qatar’s human rights record.

Sports Minister Anika Wells threw her support behind the Socceroos after their statement on Qatar’s human rights record.Credit:Getty/SMH

“The issues we talk about here, as players and part of this tournament, are intrinsically linked to this time. I hope that’s something we continue to explore in the future as part of our growth as a team and individuals.”

Federal Sports Minister Anika Wells, who is in Doha to support the Socceroos and for a series of meetings with the Qatari government, supported the principle of player agency.

“I back athletes’ right to have a voice,” she said. “I think athletes have every right to speak on issues that are important to them. Athletes are not just chess pieces on a chessboard, they are people with rights. I think Australian sports should be modern Australian workplaces.”

Under fire FIFA president Gianni infantino.

Under fire FIFA president Gianni infantino.Credit:Getty Images

She rejected as hackneyed the tenet that sport and politics should be kept separate.

“Sport is every bit as political as politics,” she said. “The people who try to keep politics out of sport are the ones who currently have the power and want to keep that power.”

Wells said it was important for the Australian government to engage with rather than shun Qatar. “We’re a new government, and we believe in open dialogue, and we believe you need to show up to have it,” she said.

“I think they’re keen to gauge where the Australian government is at. I was quite surprised by how humble, honest and constructive they were about it. They’d like to see more acknowledgement of the work they have done recently [concerning working conditions and labourers’ rights].

“I conveyed to them what has been made very clear to me in Australia that Australians want to see more done and that this work is never over.

“I put that in the broader context that that is the case for all of us. We could all do more to advance human rights, and that this global scrutiny will turn itself upon us in July next year.”

The Socceroos during their first game against France.

The Socceroos during their first game against France.Credit:AP

Meantime, FIFA president Gianni Infantino remains under public pressure after a rambling and extraordinary pre-tournament speech defending Qatar’s human rights record as a work in progress. Denmark is leading the backlash, foreshadowing a vote against him in elections next year.


Football Australia chief executive James Johnson, a former FIFA executive, said he didn’t think it would come to that. “We’re not in a position right now to decide that because we don’t have to,” Johnson said. “At this stage, it’s my understanding that only president Infantino will run. I’m not sure there’ll be a decision to make.”

And then there’s the non-political football, the one that Australia needs to get into Tunisia’s net and keep out of its own on Saturday if they are to have any chance of squeaking out of the group stage of this World Cup.

Irvine said that in a way, the maths were the same as before Tuesday’s emphatic defeat by France.

“Of course, the stakes are higher now,” he said, “but at the end of the day, coming into this tournament, you know you’re going to have to get two positive results to progress, and we’ve still got full belief that’s achievable.”

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