CHRISTIAN WAKEFORD: Proud of England in World Cup and we can't ignore Qatar's actions

Bury South MP Christian Wakeford
Bury South MP Christian Wakeford

I don’t think I am alone in saying that this World Cup hasn’t got me excited like previous ones.

That changed slightly after England’s emphatic win on Monday as they brushed aside Iran with ease, however it does leave me conflicted due to much of the pre tournament build-up.

Ignoring how Qatar controversially won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup much of the traditional excitement has been marred by how Qatar conducts itself as a country.

It cannot be allowed to be ignored that a country that seems totally unprepared to host a tournament of this magnitude meant that 1,200 migrant workers have died building the stadiums.

Living and working conditions for some migrants in Qatar are appalling. Long hours in the blazing heat, low pay and squalid dormitories, are a daily ordeal for thousands - and they cannot leave without an exit visa.

There has also been much made of the treatment of LGBT people in Qatar.

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, with a punishment of up to three years in prison and a fine.

It was disappointing to see both the England and Wales teams row back on wearing the "one love" armband due to the possibility of receiving a yellow card.

It is a sad message to send that the threat of a yellow card is essentially more important than those England fans who can’t even go out to watch the team in Qatar due to the fear of persecution and imprisonment.

It pales into insignificance when compared to the bravery of the Iranian team who have denounced their government and refused to sing their national anthem following the death of Mahsa Amini by their morality police.

I also see a common line of argument that we shouldn’t complain or dictate to others regarding norms in their own country or that we aren’t exactly innocent of wrongdoing ourselves over the years.

We, of course, have our own complicated and troubled history as a country but that doesn’t then veto criticism of other countries on their human rights and how they treat someone merely because they love someone from the same sex.

It is our job as elected officials to call out prejudice when we see it.

With all that said though the group of lads we have representing us on pitch have never made me prouder to be English.

Whether it be Jack Grealish’s work with children with disabilities, Marcus Rashford’s fight to end school hunger, Raheem Sterling’s youth work in his home town of Brent or the sheer decency and leadership of Gareth Southgate they are a joy to behold.

I feel privileged to watch and listen to these bright and engaged young men who have abundant talent at their feet the magic they show seems to bring the country together which is needed at times like this.

It may have “only been Iran” but maybe, just maybe, it might actually come home after all…