US coach Greg Berhalter said that when it came to protesting the human rights record in Qatar, which will host the 2022 World Cup, he preferred to participate and “spread awareness of the situation” rather than a boycott.
Last March, the men’s national teams of the Netherlands, Norway and Germany wore T-shirts to protest the treatment of workers in Qatar. Reports indicate that many work accidents and deaths have occurred since Qatar won the 2010 World Cup.
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Before the World Cup qualifier against Gibraltar, Norway wore T-shirts that read “Human rights on and off the field”, and there was talk of a possible boycott of the competition. The next day, Germany wore T-shirts that read “Human Rights”. Then the Netherlands followed suit by wearing a T-shirt that read “Football supports change”.
Norway has since said it will not boycott the competition.
Ahead of Sunday’s Gold Cup group stage final against Canada, Berhalter was asked if the United States would take a similar stance.
“There are protests like Norway, and this is one way to do it,” he told reporters during a phone call with Zoom. “But I also think we need to raise awareness of the situation, and I think boycotting the World Cup might not do much good. But being involved in this situation and spreading awareness of it can be helpful. [that]. So our job is to educate the players, inform the staff of exactly what is going on there and come up with our own message about how we want to bring about change.”
The American men’s team previously wore T-shirts promoting racial equality with the phrase “Be The Change”.
As for the match, Berhalter said he was “lucky” with the group of Canadian players who took the course. Canada reached the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers for the first time since 1998, and a draw or win in Sunday’s game would see them top Group B at the expense of the US team.
“I am happy for the group and the players,” he said. “A lot of players that we know, I have a lot of respect for these players. It’s good to see them grow up over the past five years, they have reached this point and I think it is a good team.”
“I think they made some changes in the formation that really play to their strengths and then look at developing their player pool, similar to ours. They are young players and they have really taken the next step and reached the international level.”
Earlier today, defender Reggie Cannon stated he was “100% back” from the hamstring injury that kept him out of his first two US games.