Soccer World Cup: Is the fortress crumbling or is there truce? The national team moves into their training quarters

The road to the German national team leads far beyond Doha, to the north of Qatar.

Soccer World Cup: Is the fortress crumbling or is there truce? The national team moves into their training quarters

The road to the German national team leads far beyond Doha, to the north of Qatar. After driving 50 kilometers through the desert, a castle suddenly appears – like a mirage. Red stone, four jagged towers as lookout posts, the walls insurmountably high - this is the training ground for the DFB team during the World Cup, which begins on Sunday.

It is already clear: the castle will be heavily used in the next few weeks. And as a metaphor. If the team of national coach Hansi Flick wins their first preliminary round game against Japan on Wednesday, the truce is certainly to be commended. If she comes into the tournament rather sluggishly, it will mean that the fortress is crumbling menacingly.

The media center of the German Football Association is not far from the hermetically sealed training ground in Al Ruwais. There President Bernd Neuendorf made his first appearance in Qatar on Friday. Neuendorf only said a few words about the condition of the team ("good, healthy looseness"). Serious issues had to be negotiated - such as the attitude of the DFB to the host country Qatar, where human rights are only slightly respected. One point of criticism at the World Cup is the situation of the so-called migrant workers, who come from poor third countries and were employed in the construction of the World Cup stadiums. There were numerous deaths; often the workers who went about their jobs in the blistering heat were not adequately protected.

Neuendorf has now announced that the German national team will get involved in Nepal and will support an SOS Children's Village with one million euros. About 400,000 migrant workers from the South Asian country work in Qatar. The donation is intended to help "reduce the pressure of migration," said Neuendorf.

However, this announcement did not answer the question of how the DFB, with seven million members the largest sports association in the world, will position itself at the tournament.

Neuendorf said he had "a lot of talks" with Qatari politicians and officials. Is that enough? Isn't there a need for more pressure from such a powerful and highly reputable association as the DFB?

Neuendorf will continue to try diplomacy, that became clear on Friday, and the team is banking on the power of symbols. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer will wear a captain's armband with the inscription "One Love" at the World Cup games and thus stand up for the diversity of life forms. Other nations will also appear in Qatar with the colorful armband - although this has been prohibited by the world football association Fifa. This is a political statement, said Fifa. Neuendorf rejected this. "Human rights apply everywhere in the world. That has nothing to do with politics." A fine imposed by Fifa would "accept the DFB," says Neuendorf. The English Football Association had previously made a similar statement.

In a letter to the member associations, Fifa President Gianni Infantino had asked for the start of the World Cup to only talk about football. Apparently he regards the subject of human rights as outdated; no dissonance should disturb the four-week sports festival. Neuendorf was "disturbed" and "irritated" by this request. This is probably one of the reasons why the DFB refused to support Infantino in his attempt to be elected FIFA boss for a third time. Infantino's term ends in March 2023; then elections will be held at a congress in Kigali (Rwanda). Infantino already seems to be the winner. He is the only candidate. In addition, important continental associations promised the Swiss their support. Only the European association Uefa with the DFB at the top wants a change of power.

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