FIFA World Cup 2022: Arsene Wenger comes under fire after criticising players over ‘political demonstrations’, Craig Foster responds

Legendary manager Arsene Wenger has come under fire after declaring that teams who focused on football rather than “political demonstrations” fared better in the opening round at the World Cup.

The former Arsenal coach, who is now working for FIFA as its head of global football development, made the remark unprompted during a press conference looking at trends during the now-concluded group stage in Qatar.

“When you go to a World Cup you know you must not lose the first game,” the 73-year-old said on Sunday evening (AEDT).

“And the teams as well who were mentally ready, who had the mindset to focus on the competition and not on political demonstrations.”

The comments were seen as a not-so-subtle swipe at a number of teams including Germany.

Germany’s star covered their mouths for the team photo before their opening match against Japan in protest at FIFA’s refusal to allow the captains of seven European sides to wear rainbow-themed armbands.

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The four-time champions then lost the game in a shock 2-1 result and eventually exited in the group stages.

Germany captain Manuel Neuer was among the skippers who had planned to wear rainbow-themed armbands to promote diversity, but abandoned the initiative after FIFA threatened their teams with sporting sanctions

This World Cup has been overshadowed by several controversies both on and off the pitch, especially when it comes to gay rights.

Controversy has also surrounding the dubious process from which Qatar was awarded the World Cup rights, as well as the fact thousands of immigrant workers died while building stadiums for the tournament.

Wenger’s argument to effectively tell players to ignore the issues was torn apart online, with former Socceroo Craig Foster especially scathing.

“Disgraceful comments by Wenger,” Foster wrote on Twitter.

“Propagating the FIFA line that athletes shouldn’t stand up for human rights & that a desire for social justice inhibits athletic performance.

“Human rights aren’t politics, Arsene & values shouldn’t be for sale.”

Football journalist Colin Millar argued it was a case of Wenger appeasing those who are paying his bills.

“Arsene Wenger is a FIFA employee speaking in Qatar. Once he decided to take that path, he signed up to this nonsense and risked his reputation,” Millar wrote.

CBS Sport’s Grant Wahl said he had “seen this nonsensical connection made by bad-faith people, but frankly stunned that Arsène Wenger would say it.”

While author Paul Fischer wrote: “England took the knee and had the whole armband thing and absolutely smashed Iran. Argentina focused on football and lost to Saudi Arabia.

“Paycheck must be pretty big to make someone as intelligent as Arsene Wenger spout bulls**t as pungent as this.”

– With AFP

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