Manchester United have cancelled their planned winter training camp in Qatar due to rising political tensions in the area.
“We were looking at the Middle East but that’s definitely not going to happen,” said manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer yesterday.
“If there is one thing that worries me, it’s not on the football pitch. There are other things that will worry me more than football.
“I’m going to give them a few days off. I don’t know where they will all scatter around but we will stay in Europe.”
Speaking before United’s FA Cup replay on Wednesday night, he added, “This mid- season break will be very important for everyone to get some vitamin D and get ready for the last three months.”
Vitamin D deficiency is a big problem in the northern hemisphere with around 90% of people not getting enough, especially during the winter months. This can be rectified with supplements (cod liver oil, for example) or by eating more oily fish rather than trips to repressive countries.
There are also many other warm countries with far better human rights records where sunshine is freely available at this time of year.
While the area he’s discussing is on edge due to the United States’ assassination of a high-ranking Iranian general, Qatar has plenty of problems of its own that don’t seem to bother football clubs, generally, during the rest of the year.
Amnesty International report that workers in the country continue to be abused as they build stadiums ahead of the World Cup in 2022 with thousands reportedly going unpaid, living in squalid conditions and much worse. It is estimated that some 95% of Qatar’s labour force is made up of migrant workers, amounting to around 2 million people.
“Despite the significant promises of reform which Qatar has made ahead of the 2022 World Cup, it remains a playground for unscrupulous employers,” said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s deputy director of global issues.
“Migrant workers often go to Qatar in the hope of giving their families a better life – instead many people return home penniless after spending months chasing their wages, with too little help from the systems that are supposed to protect them.”
“We continue to work with NGOs, including the International Labour Organisation, to ensure that these reforms are far-reaching and effective. Any issues or delays with our systems will be addressed comprehensively.
“We have said, from the outset, that this would take time, resources and commitment.”
It saddens, but does not surprise, me to see football clubs continue to chase after Middle East oil money and I don’t think anything I say or do will ever change that.
Still, I’ll keep saying it because it needs to be said – Premier League football clubs need to stop endorsing dictatorial regimes that repress women and minorities and not only when it puts their own personal safety at direct risk.