Following the arrest of the Norwegian journalists in Qatar, national team manager Ståle Solbakken admits that the Norwegian Football Association’s choice of dialogue has not been enough. At the same time, he calls for more actors than the NFF in the debate.
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– It’s tragic. It is one of many points one has been concerned about; to come down and have full freedom of the press, says the Norwegian national team manager to VG.
He has stayed in Denmark after the 0-2 defeat for the Netherlands in last week hit the barrier for Norwegian participation in the controversial World Cup starting in a year.
Late Tuesday night, it emerged that a NRK team of two journalists were arrested on a reportage trip with the World Cup’s host nation. Qatari authorities say they were arrested to film in a private area.
– If Norway had played in the World Cup now, or been in the play-off game (in March next year), would you have thought differently about joining after this?
– I think this had been re-evaluated in Norway all the way. If you take away Qatar, but that it is about the World Cup in Russia, the Olympics in Russia, about the Olympics that come to China and have been in China: It is an overriding social issue. Sport is and will be politics. But sports is also an arena where you can try to meet, get different people together, without weapons. It is naive thinking, but where else are we to meet? For me it is very complicated. I do not have a bad word to say about someone who thinks we should never have done anything but boycott. But it’s easy to say when you’re on that side, Ståle Solbakken answers.
– When Qatar does this, does it mean that the dialogue line NFF has chosen does not have enough effect?
– On the one hand, you can say that the dialog bar does not have enough effect. It has not affected Qatari authorities enough. But it has more to do with the fact that England, Germany, Brazil, Argentina – the big ones – if they had “pulled” in the same way as the NFF and Norway have done, it would have a much greater effect. Then we can hope that it will come. You can not say that it (the dialog bar) has had one wished effect, but I would also not say that it has not had some effect. We know that, and I have received confirmation through Amnesty, says Solbakken, who from day one as national team manager stood out in the Qatar question.
In June, the majority of 489 representatives from all of Football Norway said in the to boycott the World Cup. It happened at the extraordinary federal parliament (Norwegian football general assembly).
Although Solbakken calls for larger football nations to come on the field, he also believes that the Norwegian authorities and Norwegian business can be clearer.
– Norway is the only country that has had a vote and the only country that has had discussions. There has the player group to the degrees involved. Then we had lost 0-3 against Turkey, and had the last tactics meeting in Montenegro, Mats Møller Dæhli, Martin Ødegaard and Kristoffer Ajer lined up and answered questions from the Norwegian Supporter Alliance for half an hour. The player group has been very conscious of getting to know this and understood all parties. The NFF has that too. NFF has done more than any other football association, says the national team manager.
The sports president does not regret Qatar’s strategy
Admittedly, he sees an increase in the coverage in the international media of the Qatar World Cup.
– What is good in everything that is bad: It is tragic for the NRK journalists that they have had such an experience, and no one should suffer for there to be attention around it, but then there will be attention around it.
– If you read international media now, the focus is starting to get stronger. A newspaper like the Daily Mail, which may not be the medium you choose if you are just going to read a newspaper in the world every day, has started to put more focus since Beckham has stepped into it with everything he has, Solbakken points out.
He also shows the coverage in Danish Ekstra Bladet and Swedish TV 4.
– The interview that Olof Lundh did in Sweden with a Qatar boss, where a lot comes out, and that with Peter Schmeichel. It emerges with what is a bit of a problem in football. Schmeichel misses so much that this is “just football”. No, it’s not just football. Schmeichel misses “bigtime”, says the Norwegian coach about it Danish goalkeeper hero from the 1990s.
– What do you think about heavy international football names like Schmeichel and David Beckham contributing as ambassadors?
– It’s embarrassing. It’s what makes you get a punch back. That it gets a little ridiculous. It’s a big concern for politics, business, governments all over the world.
– Are you thinking of going to the World Cup as national team manager?
– A super good question. I have not thought about that much yet, since I have had enough to digest. You probably hope that you could have traveled there as a proud observer and felt that conditions had improved radically, as intended. Then I can not sit and say that if we had qualified, we will travel, and if we do not qualify, we will not travel. It’s hypocrisy. I think it is extremely difficult, Solbakken answers.
The Norwegian Football Association has announced a visit to Qatar next month. Solbakken should not be included.
– What you miss is that the cannons come on the field. What is the problem with football today is the “mess” of bonds and constellations in the big organizations. We know that we have put a lot of pressure on FIFA, and if we can get more and more, and that the big, heavy ones are coming. But being completely gone and not having access to anything is a difficult scenario, says Solbakken.
He claims he understands those who say that Norway should boycott the World Cup.
– Then it must not be the case that NFF is a scapegoat. If you ask Egenes in Amnesty about what the national team has done, I think he is happy and that we have taken the lead. If it has helped? Probably too little, but have we started any small movements? Yes, we have done that, Solbakken states.