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Players don’t often write interesting articles about football, but…

by Tony Attwood

It is possible, although perhaps rather unlikely, that you know of Tim Sparv, the Finnish midfielder.  He spent three years in the youth academy of Southampton and was a member of Southampton’s youth team that reached the final of the FA Youth Cup in 2005, playing in a team that also included Theo Walcott.

Since then he has played 84 times for Finland, and now at 34 he is obviously in the latter part of his career – but is still very much captain of Finland.  But unlike most footballers we hear of, he’s not giving instant opinions on clubs’ playing styles hoping for a regular spot on a radio or TV show, getting money for chatting within the rules of what you are allowed to chat about.

No, instead he’s just written a 2500 word serious article on why we should be working ever harder to keep the issue of Qatar on the agenda.

Of course in countries where the media take human rights more seriously than the bulk of the English press, such a stance is welcomed.  But as we know, in England, politics and sport must not be seen together.  As far as I know only one newspaper has raised concerns about Qatar, and they have certainly not raised the thought that England ought not to be competing for a place in that competition.

So Tim Sparv has written a piece in The Players’ Tribune with the title “We need to talk about Qatar”.

If you don’t know The Players’ Tribune I would suggest that when you’ve finished reading my little ramble here, you follow up on that link which takes you to the football section of the site.  It shows what players can do as writers when they are not misled and misdirected by a national media anxious to stop all serious debate about the political issues that surround football.

Now if you do read that article you will soon see that Sparv has not been acting on his own in highlighting the issue of Qatar.  As he points out, other players had understood why voicing major concerns about Qatar was vital.

Let me quote one small piece where the player talks about being asked on TV if he was aware of the situation in Qatar and why he had chosen to be there for a game.    (I can’t imagine any English newspaper asking a member of the English team about human rights, so it does make for interesting reading.)   Here is what he says…

“Some of the players were there for the first time — they were as excited as little kids just to pull on the national shirt, and suddenly they were being forced to answer questions about a foreign country, its ways of dealing with migrant workers and its human rights track record….

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“It was uncomfortable for all of us. And I realised that I had no good answers. In fact, new questions began to pop up in my head.

“Is this really what we should be doing? 

“By being here, are we giving indirect support to a regime that we shouldn’t? 

“So we players and the football federation took a long, hard look in the mirror and decided not to have any more camps in Qatar. But I still felt uncomfortable. Clearly there was something important going on. And, just as clearly, I had not spent enough time thinking about it. “

In the article he then talks about FIFPRO – the global trade union grouping for footballers, to which the English football trades union is affiliated.

The article continues by talking about the player’s own decision to investigate what is really happening in Qatar, and let me conclude here by giving one more quote which relates to the voting for giving Qatar the world cup finals in the first place.

“Where were the fans? The players? The NGOs?

“Where were the human rights experts?

“Why were all these social issues ignored?

“I do appreciate that some things have changed at FIFA since then. A lot of the people who voted for Qatar, those who bribed and took bribes, have been kicked out. Before the 2026 World Cup was awarded, FIFA said it would take human rights and environmental protection into account during the bidding process. It made documents like the bid evaluation report public. So it seems like they’re cleaning up the place. I really hope they are.”

The article continues thereafter and I do hope you have time to read it.   But in case you can’t find the time, let me leave you with a final quote from the article.

“Saying something is so much better than saying nothing.

“Maybe some people will abuse you for raising your voice — perhaps they would either way. Maybe you will have some emails to reply to and some phone calls to answer.

“But when the history of this World Cup is written, you will be on the right side.”

If you are a regular reader of Untold, I hope that you are here, at least in part, because you agree.

The slavery files & the FA

8 comments to Players don’t often write interesting articles about football, but…

  • Nitram

    I am still waiting for one of those still taking the knee every match day, or SKY Sports, BTS MOTD, who keep telling me how important that still is, to actually even mention this ? I’m not even saying take a stance, just mention it.

    I haven’t got a racist bone in my body. I don’t have to take a knee or go on a march to know what I have in my heart, and what I have in my heart is what matters.

    Anyone can take a knee and still be a racist. You can refuse to take a knee and abhor racism.

    It’s what’s in your heart that counts, that’s what matters.

    All I know is I’m watching Black White Yellow Brown Pink and Green take a knee on a weekly basis and I haven’t heard a single word from one of them about this.

    Untold Arsenal is the only place I ever hear about it, which is just one more reason why I love this place.

    Until I do hear something from those other guys I’m sorry, but all I see is a bunch of hypocrites who obviously care far more about money than lives.

  • This is a great article, Tony.

    I find it strange that there is such a silence from the pundits regarding this subject, especially from those who have been very vociferous on sports programs regarding slavery in “historic” settings, and who seem to be more circumspect when dealing with contemporary situations.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I think that most people know on which side their bread is buttered , and that these bread and butter issues are better left to the experts .South Asian deaths does not rank highly in many peoples minds.

    Others choose and pick their battles according to the prescribed flavour of the day.
    Meaning , as long as it is not happening on their front lawn, they will chose to ignore it . Or downplay it .

    I’m personally only in it for the beautiful game of football,especially the Arsenal, and balls to the rest . The WC has never been ranked highly for me.

    And many others probably only latch on to certain popular issues if it serves their purpose, or is very popular or chic at that time . How many times have certain issues surfaced when it served its purpose, only to die an unceremonious death ? Like that pedophile ring involving young English players.

    Who gains ? Mostly very interested parties , who get some unfair gains out of it .
    We all know who is gaining , and who owns the butter factory !

  • Zedsaunt

    Thanks for this Tony, thanks to Tim Sparv for writing it.

    A good mate asked me a few months ago how any fan could cheer on their country when they knew the game was being played on the corpses of the workers who built the stadium?

    I had no answer then or now.

  • Nitram

    Brickfield Gunners

    I think I know what you are trying to say, I think ?

    I agree there are 100’s of ethical and moral issues around the World, and I suppose everyone is guilty to greater or lesser degrees of ignoring or highlighting each and every one of them, depending on their own ethical perimeters or moral boundaries or whether the issues are close or not to their heart or indeed whether it affects them or not. It’s a minefield, I get that.

    But the problem here is, as I see it at least, the overt nature of this complete and utter hypocrisy. And worse it’s happening almost every day right under our noses.

    On the one hand we are told to embrace this very visual and emotive show of solidarity against racism, and by inference historical slavery. And lets get this straight, we are being TOLD to embrace this because if we don’t apparently we are racist. Then on the other hand, after telling us what we should do they then completely ignore the fact that they are going to play a World Cup in a Country that is guilty of modern slavery, among many other behaviors that I have no doubt would be outside their moral or ethical boundaries, as they are mine.

    So yes it is a show of solidarity and something they are perfectly at liberty to do, but solidarity with who?

    It certainly doesn’t seem to be with the victims of modern slavery in Qatar.

    In layman’s terms it just leaves a very nasty taste.

  • @Brickfields

    You give sandwiches a bad name 🥪😉

    @Nitram

    It is probably a lot less troublesome to address historical concerns than to do something meaningful in the present.

    At the end of the day, pundit panels stuffed to the gunnels with “talking heads” are all talk, and when the heads exist in (and in many cases resemble) a vacuum, that talk is merely a distraction.

  • Nitram

    seismic

    Very true.

    It is much easier to say ‘you shouldn’t of done this, you shouldn’t of done that’ hang your heads in shame, than it to say ‘I wont do this, I wont do that’ so I can hold my head up with pride’.

    One is about others and doesn’t mean you have to do anything other than take a knee. Crucially this costs you nothing.

    One is about you and does mean you have to do something other than just take a knee. Crucially this will cost you money.

    I am not saying I am an angel without faults. I can be a hypocrite. Most of us can.

    But on the other hand I don’t try telling people what they should and shouldn’t do. How they should and should behave. Whether they are or are not racists.

    If you are going to do this then the least I expect of you is that your behavior reaches the levels you are telling others they should of reached, or indeed should now reach.

    I do not see this happening.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Dear guys , was just thinking out loud . Life is so precious and valuable , that we ought to respect it and not take it for granted. Everyone deserves respect and should get pleasure in whatever work we do .

    Some of us may be more luckier than others , especially when we get to ask women to take off their clothes , and have the husband pay the bill !

    But seriously , I just like to think that doing the right thing always should not be over thought. We should chose to do it as it IS the right thing ! It should be as natural as breathing.

    We should never try to double guess ourselves, nor doubt ,but rather just do it. Just imagine the joy people would get by coming together for a good cause. It truly would be a joy to watch football in a safe stadium , built well and without any remorse or regrets.

    That accidents happen is a given . But poor working environments or exploiting poor peoples is a sin. Am sure there are employers who did a solid job of their stadium building , following all the expected rules and criteria . But how many would pass the litmus test of decency ?

    In the end will it all been worth it ? Would you sleep peacefully knowing that you may have the cause of someone’s death or misfortune ?

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