Harry Kane is determined to shine a light on human rights abuses in Qatar with the help of captains from other national teams after expressing misgivings at the Gulf state hosting the World Cup this year.
The England captain mentioned his Tottenham teammates Hugo Lloris and Son Heung-min – who captain France and South Korea respectively – and former clubmates such as Gareth Bale – the captain of Wales, who are hoping to qualify – as he looked to rally strength in numbers to drive lasting social change.
Kane and his England teammates were briefed at St George’s Park on Tuesday about the issues surrounding Qatar’s hosting of the finals tournament – chiefly the rights of women, the LGBTQ+ community and migrant workers.
Gareth Southgate, the England manager, led the conversation, with input from other Football Association members of staff, including Mark Bullingham, the chief executive, and Edleen John, the director of international relations, corporate affairs and co-partner for equality, diversity and inclusion.
Southgate and Bullingham will travel to Qatar for the World Cup draw on Friday week and the FA is considering whether to give migrant workers a voice as part of any England media activity there.
Kane said: “There’s a couple of other national captains at Tottenham or maybe it’s talking to other national team captains to see if we can be unified, what we try and do. We haven’t spoken about it yet but, over the next weeks and months, it’s definitely a conversation we should have because when you are together as nations and you have that unity in terms of captains, you can send a message.
“It is something I will try to do. I think that will send out a bigger and more powerful message. It is part of the responsibility of a captain. It is important to talk about these things and not just hide away from them. And I know for sure the other lads will be happy to be talking about it, too. Hopefully we can make a real impact.”
Kane was asked whether it was right that the World Cup finals tournament had gone to Qatar. “It’s a hard question to answer, if I am totally honest,” he said.
“It wasn’t our decision, it was the decision of Fifa.
“The World Cup is one of the greatest tournaments I have ever played in. There is definitely that excitement of being there and experiencing that again – 2018 was incredible for me and the other players involved. But there are some issues that you can’t hide away from. There are, of course, some conflicting emotions around it.
“For me and our team it’s about controlling what we can control and that’s to make sure we do what we can and use our platforms to help in any way we can. But also still be excited about a major tournament. We will have to learn to cope with it and balance the two.”
Kane admitted that in terms of gestures the England squad were unclear, as yet, about what they may do. Some national teams in Europe have worn T-shirts and displayed banners that have drawn attention to the human rights issues in Qatar. What Kane did say he wanted to see was action that led to change which went far beyond the four weeks of the tournament.
“Any issues that we are trying to resolve are trying to be resolved forever,” Kane said. “It is not just a quick fix. The fact there is a light shining on Qatar will help the situation and help us talk about it. Having these conversations now is definitely useful. But it is important those conversations carry on.
“It is similar to taking the knee [in the fight against racism]. It is not just something we did for a small amount of time. By carrying on, we keep showing our support and that has been really important. I think the same thing will happen in Qatar and, after the tournament, it will be important to keep talking about the issues and make sure anything we do help or improve is for the rest of time, not just a few months.”
England are preparing for Wembley friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast on Saturday and next Tuesday. Bukayo Saka did not train on Wednesday because of illness, although he is not believed to be Covid‑positive. The goalkeeper Sam Johnstone has withdrawn and is likely to be replaced by Fraser Forster.