- Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC.
United States coach Gregg Berhalter said that when it comes to protesting the human rights record of 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar, he prefers participating and “bringing awareness to the situation” as opposed to a boycott.
Back in March, the men’s national teams of the Netherlands, Norway and Germany all wore shirts protesting the treatment of workers in Qatar. According to reports, work-related incidents and deaths have been prevalent since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar back in 2010.
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Ahead of its World Cup qualifier against Gibraltar, Norway wore shirts that said “Human Rights On And Off The Pitch,” and there was talk they might boycott the competition. The following day, Germany wore shirts that spelled out “Human Rights.” The Netherlands then followed up by wearing shirts that said, “Football Supports Change.”
Norway has since said they will not boycott the competition.
Ahead of Sunday’s Gold Cup group stage finale against Canada, Berhalter was asked if the U.S. would be taking a similar stance.
“There’s protests like Norway, and that’s one way to do it,” he told reporters during a Zoom call. “But I also think that we need to bring awareness to the situation, and I think boycotting the World Cup may not do so much good. But participating and in bringing awareness to the situation could potentially do [that]. So, our job is to educate the players, educate the staff on exactly what’s going on there and come up with our own message of how we want to make change.”
The U.S. men’s team has previously worn shirts promoting racial equality in conjunction with the phrase “Be The Change.”
In terms of the game, Berhalter said he was “happy” for the group of Canadian players that have progressed during this cycle. Canada has reached the final round of World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF for the first time since 1998, and a draw or a win in Sunday’s match would see them top Group B at the U.S. team’s expense.
“I’m happy for the group, for the players,” he said. “It’s a lot of players that we’re familiar with, I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys. It’s been nice seeing them grow over the last five years, and they’ve arrived to this point and I think it’s a good team.
“I think they made some adjustments in the formation that really play to their strengths and then you look at the development of their player pool, similar to ours, it’s young players and they’ve really taken that next step and arrived on the international level.”
Earlier in the day, defender Reggie Cannon stated that he is “back 100 percent” from the hamstring injury that has kept him out of the U.S.’s first two games.
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