Germany midfielder Joshua Kimmich says his “childhood dream” of playing in a World Cup is being tainted by the constant criticism directed at tournament host Qatar from his country.
“I would like to be able to look forward to a World Cup, even if it takes place here,” Kimmich said on Wednesday before Germany’s opening game against Japan.
“It’s a huge dream for all of us, we’re all on fire. We all want to play a good tournament, we all want to win tomorrow and yes, it’s not our fault where the World Cup takes place.”
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Germany’s buildup to the tournament in Qatar has been overshadowed by fan protests at home, political statements and calls to boycott the tournament over human rights issues including the treatment of migrant workers and members of the LGBTQ community in the oil and gas-rich Persian Gulf nation.
Kimmich, who has never suggested the complaints or grievances were in any way misplaced, previously said the protests were 12 years too late in reference to FIFA’s 2010 decision to award soccer’s most important tournament to Qatar.
The 27-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder repeated that point on Wednesday.
“We’ve talked a lot about the fact the World Cup was awarded here. That was 12 years ago, when I was 15, and now I somehow always have to comment on it. I don’t know if it’s always justified,” he said.
Kimmich said he did think it was important players speak out against problems and grievances.
“But we also have to manage this balancing act of focusing on the sporting side,” he said.
“I mean regardless of where the World Cup is taking place, it’s a World Cup, it’s the biggest competition for us footballers there is. It’s a huge childhood dream to play tomorrow and yet somehow I have the feeling that it’s always being talked down a bit or that you can’t really look forward to it.”
Kimmich referred to the general atmosphere in Germany, where there are none of the usual huge outdoor fan parties and where hundreds of pubs and bars are boycotting the tournament in protest.
There are few flags flying from balconies or car windows, and little sign of any enthusiasm for the event.
“I don’t feel like there’s any real joy there,” Kimmich said.
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