How many knees are taken to make a hero. Those hazy summer Euro nights are long gone, but this principled England side is not.
How many school dinners need to be funded, or how many times must you force the prime minister to u-turn, to cement your place on the right side of right? Hand down Marcus Rashford deserves the keys to Manchester. But does human compassion only extend to the end of our streets?
How many wreaths need to be laid to remember the fallen, to say those who attack us and our way of life will not be tolerated and their sins not forgotten? But when the perpetrators don’t impact us daily, how much do we really care?
How many David Beckhams, acting as ambassadors for your World Cup do you need to cancel out scores of covered up deaths? How many construction workers need to die before you boycott a World Cup? That’s the real question here.
A year from now England will travel to Qatar, once qualification is secured, to participate in a World Cup that is all kinds of wrong.
Almost 7,000 workers are said to have died, a drastic amount more than the official number of fatalities (closer to 40) the tournament organisers claim.
No World Cup, neigh, no tournament has had a more questionable human rights record.
The Middle East is now firmly on the football map. Abu Dhabi’s take over of Manchester City in 2008 and their subsequent pan continental expansion has created quite the footprint.
Neighbouring Saudi Arabia satiated their national football FOMO thirst with the acquisition of Newcastle this year. Three countries in the region own football clubs, with Qatar’s PSG making up the trio.
Come Christmas next year Lusail will have hosted the World Cup final. Can England make back to back finals? Should they be there at all? Should anyone?
If there’s any benefit of globalisation, it’s there are less places for the horrors of the world to hide. In 2002 Sepp Blatter took the World Cup to Asia. Eight years later; Africa.
All the while, the brown envelopes were passing under tables all around the parish.
Rule Britannia, eh. The Tudors. The Romans, The Egyptians and Sioux Indians. Whilst we learn about the world’s great and ancient civilisations, most of us don’t know what’s been going on under our noses in the last century.
The last twenty years, the aftermath of 9/11, has shown us how diverse the world is, and both how little we understand of other cultures and how we turn a blind eye to it.
Was the backlash around Newcastle really about human rights, or was it the threat it posed to the status quo? Both are of concern but one can mask the other quite easily.
England taking the knee last summer didn’t merge football with politics, but football with the real world. Big industries are making stands for the climate, equality and more. Why do we want to exclude football, a multi-billion industry from doing the same?
But if the players show solidarity because the game is for everyone, that can’t be finite.
It’s not just for the citizens they represent, black or white. It’s for all, everywhere. There is no grey. No limit.
It’s a boat footballers shouldn’t be in, having to consider missing out on playing on the biggest of stages, but the game’s administration preferred money to morals on this one long ago.
The players do still have a choice though, even if it is a very difficult one.
Repeatedly professionals are calling for a reduction in games per year. But on they play and on they get paid. Nothing really changes.
The 2022 World Cup, played mid season, disrupts an already jam packed calendar.
A separate debate bubbles away around bi-annual World Cups. One pro of playing every two years is that players who are on the fringe or miss tournaments through injury have a higher chance of getting to a World Cup.
The con is game congestion. With four years to wait between World Cups it’s hard for a player who may only get one shot to boycott Qatar. But there’s two birds to be killed here; an arguably moral obligation to be fulfilled by not playing and sending a message to FIFA to reduce games per year and create breaks for players. A strike may force the hand of the game’s governors.
A week’s a long time in football, so what happens in a year who knows. But before England can take the knee on Qatari turf, they should think long and hard about the double standards taking seats on the plane might mean.