Gary Neville took a lot of stick before the World Cup about going on beIN Sports.
His defence and argument was that he wanted to use the platform to raise the issues surrounding Qatar and the tournament. True to his word, Neville had not just one but two rants on Saturday.
To date, I’m still waiting on any of the others - and there’s a big cast list - to do the same. Maybe they don’t feel they need to. Or that’s not their role. Instead, they’re all tweeting about how wonderful it is while working for Qatar’s state broadcaster and seemingly ignoring the issues surrounding migrant workers and the LGBTQ community.
Neville went on a two-and-a-half minute long monologue in which he - rather bizarrely - ranted about the “negativity of the English media”, overlooking the fact that he is part of the English media.
He also forgets that some of the campaigning work in the years building up to the tournament and reporting out here - by the English media - has been remarkable. But clearly, he has selected reading and viewing. But fair play to him, at least he spoke up. Then he went in for round two after Argentina’s win over Australia. I caught the repeat when I got in from the game at 3am.
Neville had a good half an hour with Richard Keys, Andy Gray and Peter Schmeichel debating the issues. It was lively, powerful and thought provoking.
Neville went through the card calling people “corrupt” and Keys challenged him on every issue. We’re hardly in a great place to be lecturing people on moral values.
For the record, I think Keys and Gray are terrific broadcasters, the beIN Sports coverage has been superb and they’ve not changed their position on Qatar. But I think a few are forgetting that the assembled British media here are watching beIN Sports rather than the BBC or ITV for obvious reasons.
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I’m enjoying the World Cup so much more than I thought. I love the football. The atmosphere on Saturday night was terrific at the Argentina game - even if they do not look enough to win it. The team is not good enough to carry Lionel Messi to glory, in my opinion.
The one city format is superb - and surely it will happen again in the future. The fans are generally loving it. But, in my opinion, you can love this World Cup as a football tournament and yet still feel deeply uncomfortable about the other issues. It tarnishes it.
I can’t believe that media people who campaign so brilliantly and diligently back in the UK on our many issues suddenly think it’s OK just to ignore the fact that homosexuality is illegal here.
And they seem to have swallowed the party line of “progress.” Look at the so-called progress in South Africa, Brazil and Russia. They’re being naive in a way they’d never accept if they were in London.
Then imagine if you are gay and how being in this country must make you feel. Deeply uncomfortable, I would imagine. It’s not something that I feel is right.
Turned away for wearing a rainbow T-shirt? That’s indefensible. FIFA’s mission of inclusivity is dead in the water.
Meanwhile, The Guardian did a piece on the changing face of the English fanbase in Qatar. It’s much more ethnically diverse. The piece raised a great point because it’s something I have noticed. It’s great to see.
But, again, that should not mask the issue on the LGBTQ community.
Can you change that in this part of the world? It’s a difficult and complex question and hard one to answer. But shying away from it certainly won’t help.