Players and coaches are speaking out against the World Cup host.
Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. Here’s what you won’t hear about Qatar on World Cup broadcasts.
In today’s SI:AM:
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Players voice concerns with Qatar. But is it too late?
I’m not trying to be a buzzkill, but this year’s World Cup, which begins Sunday, is a terrible idea. Even from a pure quality-of-play standpoint, throwing the entire world’s men’s soccer calendar out of orbit to hold the tournament in the winter to avoid jeopardizing players’ health in Qatar’s deadly summer heat is a major inconvenience.
All that gets put to the side when you look at the off-field disgraces. Qatar reportedly secured the privilege of hosting via millions and millions of dollars in bribes. Once FIFA awarded it the tournament, the country employed poorly treated migrant workers to build stadiums and other infrastructure required for hosting. Thousands of them died. Others went months without being paid. Fans attending games will feel the authoritarian government’s impact. Visitors to the country will have to install spyware on their phone and, despite the the Qatari government’s insistences to the contrary, many LGBTQ fans are hesitant to go to a country where homosexuality is forbidden by law.
Don’t expect to hear any of that mentioned on Fox’s coverage of the tournament. But that doesn’t mean that the controversies will be ignored. Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes, who will play for Portugal at the World Cup, came out with one of the strongest rebukes of Qatar that I’ve seen from a current player, telling Sky Sports:
“It’s not exactly the time we want to be playing in the World Cup. I think for everyone, players and fans, it’s not the best time. Kids will be at school, people will be working and the timings will not be the best for people to watch the games.
“We know the surroundings of the World Cup, what has been in the past few weeks, past few months, about the people that have died on the construction of the stadiums. We are not happy about that at all.
“We want football to be for everyone, everyone has to be included and involved in a World Cup because a World Cup is the world. It’s for everyone, it doesn’t matter who. These kind of things I think should not happen at any time. But for a World Cup it's more than football, it’s a party for fans, players, something that’s a joy to watch, should be done in a better way.”
Germany’s Leon Goretzka called Qatar’s homosexuality ban “very oppressive” and “from another millennium.” Denmark’s Christian Eriksen voiced disappointment with the decision to let Qatar host but believes players can’t do much to change the circumstances, saying, “Change has to come from somewhere else.” Former Germany captain Philipp Lahm, who was part of the country’s 2014 World Cup championship team and is now the tournament director for the 2024 European Championship, wrote a column published by The Guardian today explaining why he has decided not to attend the tournament.
Goretzka and Lahm are not the only Germans voicing concern. All across the country over the weekend, fans at Bundesliga games held signs calling for a boycott of the tournament.
Some national teams are taking direct action on the ground in Qatar. The Netherlands national team will meet with migrant workers in hopes of drawing attention to their plight. U.S. Soccer has also made a direct statement against Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ policies, using a rainbow version of its team badge at its training facility.
Not everyone is keen to voice their opinions, though. French captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said he agrees with FIFA that national teams should try to focus on the game while in Qatar.
“There’s too much pressure on the players. We are at the bottom of the chain,” he said. “If you have to apply pressure, first of all it had to be 10 years ago [when Qatar was awarded the tournament]. Now it’s too late. You have to understand that for players this opportunity happens every four years and you want every chance to succeed. The focus has to be on the field. The rest is for politicians. We are athletes.”
The best of Sports Illustrated
As the Grizzlies develop into a title contender, today’s Daily Cover by Jon Wertheim looks back at the franchise’s ill-fated early days in Vancouver:
Why did the Grizzlies fail in Vancouver? An autopsy report reveals no obvious cause of death. No single catastrophic event. No lone bad actor. This was the organizational equivalent of death by a thousand cuts. The Grizzlies’ time in Vancouver was marked by countless humiliations and hurdles, large and small, real and perceived—from a rumor among NBA players that Vancouver lacked grocery stores, to the very real challenge of a stubbornly low exchange rate and the struggle of bringing (losing) NBA basketball to an NHL stronghold.
Ross Dellenger traveled to Charlottesville, where students were in a state of shock after a shooting killed three students on the football team and injured two others. … Things are so bad for the Lakers that Rohan Nadkarni is throwing out possible trades for Anthony Davis. … Here are our experts’ picks for the World Cup. … Jonathan Wilson ripped Cristiano Ronaldo for his criticism of Manchester United.
Around the sports world
Virginia running back Mike Hollins is in critical condition after the shooting that killed three of his teammates. … After the release of the latest women’s basketball AP poll, the No. 1 and No. 2 teams will face off on Sunday. … Tennessee dropped 11 spots in the men’s poll after losing to Colorado. … Seahawks pass rusher Bruce Irvin ripped the NFL for the “terrible” field conditions in Germany. … Former Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig pleaded guilty to a felony charge in relation to an illegal gambling operation. … Novak Djokovic will reportedly be allowed to enter Australia to play in the Australian Open.
The top five...
… things I saw yesterday:
4. Brian Robinson Jr.’s persistence on his touchdown run.
3. Jacob Markstrom’s save to preserve the Flames’ lead in the final seconds of the third period.
1. An unbelievable shot that Victor Wembanyama made look routine.
Roberto Luongo, who was one of four players (along with Daniel Alfredsson, Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin) inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame last night, famously took a bathroom break during overtime of a playoff game in 2007. Who filled in for him in goal while he took care of business?
- Dany Sabourin
- Drew MacIntyre
- Dan Cloutier
- Curtis Sanford
Yesterday’s SIQ: When Don Shula won his record-setting 325th career NFL game on Nov. 14, 1993, which quarterback led the Dolphins to victory?
- Dan Marino
- Scott Mitchell
- Steve DeBerg
- Doug Pederson
Answer: Doug Pederson. Dan Marino had gone down with a season-ending injury in the fifth game of the season, at which point, according to the Associated Press, Shula couldn’t remember who his third quarterback was behind Marino and Scott Mitchell. It was Pederson, who had been a backup a year earlier in the World League of American Football.
On the second play of the third quarter of Miami’s Nov. 14, 1993, game against the Eagles, Mitchell went down with a separated shoulder. And so Shula, sitting tied with Halas at 324 career wins (including the postseason), had to turn to Pederson.
Pederson didn’t light the world on fire, completing three of six pass attempts for 34 yards, but he was the guy under center as Miami drove for two field goals to seal a 19–14 victory.
“Doug did a heck of a job,” Shula said. “He kept his cool and he made the plays. He hadn’t played any kind of real football to speak of, but he got the job done.”
Shula coached two more seasons and finished with 347 career wins. Bill Belichick, who recently surpassed Halas, isn’t far behind. He’s got 326.
From the Vault: Nov. 15, 1976
When the NBA and ABA finally merged at the start of the 1976–77 season, it was difficult to know what to make of the four new additions to the league. The ABA was considered the inferior league but the Nuggets, fresh off their loss in the ABA finals, looked ready to hang with the old guard. Before the season, SI’s Curry Kirkpatrick picked them to win the Midwest Division. And after they got out to an 8–0 start, that prediction looked like a good one. Kirkpatrick wrote that the Nuggets had benefited from an easy schedule to start the season but still had the makings of a winning team—and were scoffing at suggestions that the ABA had been a Mickey Mouse operation:
The early returns from Colorado are encouraging to all those who have prayed for the ABA. At the end of last week, the Denver Nuggets were the only unbeaten team in the pros. Coach Larry Brown has used vast depth, a Popsicle schedule and a lot of home games to get off to a quick start. Nevertheless, [David] Thompson and his mates are no flukes. Last week after embarrassing the New York Knicks in a nine-point game that could have been 59—“We paid them to play in this league?” shouted one Denver fan—the Nuggets went on the road and used 36 points by Thompson to come from behind and beat Chicago 93–85. The next night they won their seventh straight by defeating Milwaukee 105–103. These were Denver’s first real tests. “On the road we may have trouble,” says Brown, “but we don’t lose many at home.”
The Nugget coach likes to produce ABA-deprecating one-liners like “Now that we’re in the bigs we can fly to games non-stop.” But away from home the Nuggets warm up with the red, white and blue ball. They want to remember where they came from during their holy crusade for recognition.
The Nuggets tied the Sixers for the second best regular season record in the NBA at 50–32. (The Lakers went 53–29.) They got bounced in the Western Conference semifinals by the Blazers, but still, they showed that the ex-ABA teams shouldn’t have been taken lightly.
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