England defender Eric Dier believes it is essential football is “cherished and looked after in the right way” after saying it would be wrong to ignore off-field matters in Qatar despite it dampening players’ World Cup excitement.
The Gulf nation’s human rights record, treatment of migrant workers and oppressive LGBTQ+ laws have dominated the build-up to the 22nd edition of the tournament.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino took aim at European critics of Qatar on the eve of the World Cup in an extraordinary press conference that finished just before defender Dier spoke to the media.
Like his England team-mates and other players at this World Cup, the 28-year-old faced questions about issues in the host country beyond the football itself.
Dier found a lot of things in the build-up to the tournament “very disappointing” and said the deaths during stadium construction are a “terrible situation”, while also highlighting that players are not politicians.
Asked whether questions on such matters take away from the World Cup excitement, Dier said: “Of course it’s taking away, because we’re sitting here talking about it instead of talking about football.
“So, of course it’s taking a lot of that away for us but we can’t hide from it. It’s here, so it would be wrong to ignore it. And at the same time, we’re here to play football.
“I’m a footballer. I’m definitely not smart enough to be anything other than that.
“At the same time I’m so excited to play football but all of those things will obviously be present at the same time.”
Well-spoken Dier is the grandson of former Football Association chairman Ted Croker and laughed off suggestions he could follow the path to a similar executive position one day.
The defender pointed to his age and time left in the game, while also making a pertinent point about the way the sport he loves is run.
“I am not really into politics too much,” Dier said. “I don’t know if I have the right thing for it.
“For me, it’s really important that football is in the right hands and that it’s taken care of and cherished and looked after in the right way because it means so much to so many people.
“It is the biggest sport in the world and the one that everyone loves the most. For me, it’s extremely important.
“I don’t know if I would be the right person. It is crazy talk. I am 28. I have no idea what the future holds.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but it is extremely important that we take care of football in the right way. That’s essential.”
Dier spoke eloquently on everything from Qatar’s last-minute beer ban to England’s tactical set-up against Iran on Monday, and his timely return to the international fold to criticism aimed at Southgate.
The 28-year-old is proud of the way he fought his way back into the squad after 22-months in the international wilderness, which meant the defender watched Euro 2020 from afar.
Dier has no complaints about Southgate’s decision given his Tottenham form and instead takes umbrage with the treatment his manager has faced during a run of six winless matches in the Nations League.
Booed by sections of his own fanbase and facing increasing external pressure, Dier – a veteran of wretched Euro 2016 and run to the 2018 World Cup semi-final – finds such talk hard to comprehend.
“I think it’s crazy talk because what he’s done the last two tournaments, people lose… their perception changes so quickly,” he said. “You’ve got to remember what England were doing before.
“He has taken England to the semi-final of a World Cup and the final of a Euros and at that point we are talking about small margins that change the outcome of those results. It is just the world we live in.
“The criticism is crazy after a small run of results considering how England have performed at the last two tournaments and he was at the forefront of that. That conversation is crazy.
“People ask me if I was upset that I didn’t go to the Euros and I say ‘well, it was obviously the right decision because they got to the final!’
“So, you have got to keep things in perspective. It’s difficult nowadays because everything is now, now, now but you’ve got to remember 2016 and where we are now.”