Stephen Kenny isn’t aware of any planned protest against Qatar’s human rights record by his Republic of Ireland side when they face the 2022 World Cup hosts in Hungary tomorrow night.
However, the Ireland boss has spoken openly and honestly about the situation in the Middle Eastern country where an estimated 6,500 workers have died since the tournament hosting rights were awarded, almost 40 of them linked directly to the building of stadia.
Norway, Germany, and the Netherlands have all worn t-shirts prior to games this last week aimed at highlighting the issue. Kenny has not discussed this with his own players given the hectic nature of the international window but he would have no issue with any stand made.
“There is a clear issue with human rights in the building of stadiums in Qatar and the number of people who have died,” he explained from Hungary this afternoon. “You can’t sweep that under the carpet. It can’t be ignored. Initially, the Norwegian team and various other teams have backed that and they are entitled to do that, with good reason.
“It’s not acceptable for so many people to lose their lives. The disparity of wealth between rich and poor, to have people living in conditions of squalorm, and have people dying in those conditions is not acceptable.”
Kenny’s interests have always spilled beyond the narrow confines of football. His programme notes while Dundalk manager touched on matters as disparate as North Korea, Donald Trump, and Bloody Sunday.
His take today on the cross-section between sport and politics was worth hearing.
“Where do you draw the line? Do you say, for example, America boycotting the Olympics in Russia, Russia boycotting the Olympics in America, what does that achieve? We’re not sure. Years later we still haven’t gauged a measurement of what that actually achieved.
“Is it the handing out of the World Cup to Qatar initially? Is that the problem? Or should teams refuse to go and players refuse to play? Those are different matters. It’s a broader picture then in sport: what other countries do you pick and say, ‘You can’t do that’?
“It is a very complex issue and something that needs a wider debate.”