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'There should be a winter World Cup every 20 years' - Gary Neville feels criticism of Qatar is unfair

5:51 AM EDT 4/3/22
Gary Neville
The former England international also felt Harry Kane's comments on Qatar were over the top...

Former Manchester United defender and renowned TV pundit Gary Neville feels the criticism of Qatar hosting a World Cup is uncalled for.

Ever since Qatar won the hosting rights for 2022 World Cup, there have been crtitisims from many quarters. The weather in Qatar during June and July, when traditionally the World Cup is held, was a main concern. The weather would be too hot for football and as a result, FIFA decided to push the World Cup to the winter months of November and December where the temperatures in Qatar would be much cooler.

Along with the change in schedule, the fact that Qatar are not a footballing powerhouse was raised as a concern. But Neville has dismissed such concerns, stating that football is a global game and not just restricted to countries were the temperatures are cooler.

The 2022 World Cup, the first-ever to be held in the Middle East, should be the beginning of a change, says Neville.

"We have to have a winter World Cup every 20 years because if you say you don't want a winter World Cup, then you are saying that the Middle East is a region that should not have a World Cup," said Neville in a podcast for Sky Sports.

Football is a global game and Neville implored critics to accept that for the sport to remain global, every region in world should have a chance to host the World Cup.

"You cannot play in the middle of June in the Middle East. The temperature is too hot. So for me, you have to have a winter World Cup every 20 years. Forget (criticisms of Qatar), that's a regional issue. The World Cup has to be shifted to our (Northern hemisphere) winters, during November-December, every 20 or 24 years if we are going to be fair in giving every region in the world access to the World Cup which I think, we all believe, we should have," he stated.

"America, Australasia, Asia, Africa, Europe, all continents should have access to the World Cup. We (have to) accept that principle. It's a World Cup and if you are going to have a World Cup in the Middle East, you cannot play in June and July. We have to move that to the winter," asserted the 47-year-old.

Neville also said that it is a good thing that a muslim country is hosting the World Cup, stating that it is a chance to bring people of different cultures and religions together. He went on to say that Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup is an absolutely fair development.

"Then we say to ourselves, should the Middle East have a World Cup? No Muslim countries have had a World Cup before. So we have to have a World Cup in a Muslim country because it's a World Cup and football is here to join people together and overcome change. So, for the first time we are taking the World Cup to a Muslim country and it is absolutely correct."

There have also been plenty of criticism levelled at the workers' welfare issues surrounding labourers involved in the projects for the 2022 World Cup. Qatar had regressive systems for workers like Kafala in place. However, the country has abolished such practices and have started implementing reform measures.

"In terms of Qatar itself, there is no doubt that in the last five to 10 years, Qatar has made progress in respect of worker's rights issues. They have dropped the Kafala System, which is essentially ripping the passports of people. People can now move jobs over in Qatar which they couldn't do previously and they have improved lots of other issues, which to be fair, we find quite difficult to live with," Neville reasoned.

The former England international also criticised Tottenham Hotspur forward and England captain Harry Kane for his comments on Qatar. Kane had said that he would try to shine light on human rights abuses in Qatar during the World Cup.

Neville pointed out that Kane was very close to playing for Manchester City, whose owners are also subject to such allegations.

"If we have a problem with Qatar, we also should have a big problem with Abu Dhabi. We should have a big problem with Saudi Arabia. They are far worse on workers' rights and human rights issues at this moment in time.

"I was a bit surprised about Harry Kane talking Qatar a week or two ago. He was willing to go and play for Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City last summer, which have got very similar issues to Qatar," he said.

Neville, however, did admit there are a lot of issues that Qatar have to address.

"And going over there now for five or six years, I have seen unacceptable workers' conditions. I do believe workers should live in far better accommodations and they should be paid more. There is no doubt about that. They should be clearer on their position on LGBTQ, however, that is a religion factor not just in Qatar but the whole region. That is the issue that exists in the whole region."