Sports

German soccer chief sees football as bridge-builder in Russia and Qatar

The president of the German football association Reinhard Grindel says politicians must find a solution to the diplomatic crisis in Qatar. But he feels soccer can provide a social impulse there and in Russia.

DFB Präsident Reinhard Grindel (Getty Images/Bongarts/S. Hofmann)

Football cannot replace political solutions, insisted DFB President Reinhard Grindel on Thursday when asked about the diplomatic crisis in Qatar. The 2022 World Cup hosts find themselves politically isolated in the Gulf region after several Arab neighbors accused them of supporting terrorism.

Read: German foreign minister accuses US of stirring up Middle East conflict

"Politicial solutions always take precedence over any signal that comes from sport," said Grindel at a podium discussion at the Academy for Football Culture in Nuremberg. "Football needs to know what it is capable of, and what it is not capable of."

Still, the eyes of the world will be on Qatar during the tournament in five years time. The oil-rich state has come under heavy criticism regarding deaths at stadium building sites and the alleged poor conditions for migrant workers.

Read: FIFA has Qatar quandary after Grindel comments

"I hope that when the spotlight shines on these countries, that human rights will improve and terrorism be pushed back," he added. "Football can build little bridges that develop into big bridges between nations and politicians."

Grindel also urged complete press freedom at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and at the Confed Cup which starts next week.

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"Journalists must receive accreditation that allows them to report fully from places they feel are appropriate," he said, adding that reporting should be possible without any restrictions whatsoever.”

In an attempt to use the leverage sport provides, Grindel said he could envisage exchanges between clubs that would send a signal in the treatment of minorities, for example in disabled football in Russia.

Moscow's anti-doping authorities are still banned over accusations of widespread and systematic doping in Russia. With just one year to go before the World Cup, an "even more important signal would be independent doping controls."

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