Lionel Messi, Argentina, will they win, Qatar, human rights, homosexuality laws, Iran, protests, Carlos Quieroz

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Iran coach Carlos Queiroz stormed out of a World Cup press conference after being asked about the nation’s ongoing protests about women’s rights.

The country’s leaders have been globally condemned for using force against peaceful protests following the death of Mahsa Amini in morality police custody.

With over 15,000 protestors detained and over 300 killed, there are fears more will be executed with demands for other countries to take a stand.

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Queiroz, who is Portuguese, was asked if he is OK representing such a country.

“Are you ok representing a country, Iran, at this World Cup that is oppressive to the rights of women?” a Sky News UK reporter asked.

Queiroz snapped back: “How much you pay me to answer that question? You are a private company, how much you pay me?”.

“Talk with your boss and at the end of the World Cup I can give you the answer if you make me a good offer.”

As he prepared to leave the press conference he added: “Don’t put in my mouth words I did not say. I’m asking to your company how much you pay me to answer that question.

“I think you should start to think about what’s happened with immigrants in England. Think about that.”

Iran players previously masked their national badge during a pair of international matches in September, seen as a show of support for the demonstrations.

Iran's coach storms out of a press conference.
Iran’s coach storms out of a press conference.Source: Supplied

CHINA’S STAGGERING $2BN WIN OVER US WITHOUT PLAYING

China didn’t come close to qualifying for the World Cup, finishing fifth in Australia’s group on just six points from 10 matches, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be impacting the tournament.

Chinese brands will dominate the sponsorships seen throughout the event, per Al Jazeera, spending over $AU2 billion and beating US companies in the process.

President Xi Jinping wants China to become a football powerhouse though his plans have taken a hit with the ongoing woes of the Chinese Super League, where teams keep collapsing because the big companies backing them (and often naming them) are going into bankruptcy.

The four major Chinese sponsors of the World Cup are Wanda Group, Vivo, Mengniu Dairy and Hisense, the former three not exactly known outside of their home country, the latter having sponsored teams and venues across Australia and New Zealand.

“The World Cup works for Chinese companies both outside but also inside China as soccer has a large following with Chinese audiences,” Martin Roll, a branding expert and consultant based in Singapore, told Al Jazeera.

“It signals strongly that these Chinese brands are playing at global scale, and showcasing that to Chinese audiences play an important role. Being a sponsor and a marketing partner of the World Cup is only for a selected few brands that can afford it, so just being part of it, is a testimony to the aspirations of the Chinese brands.”

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France’s hopes of defending their World Cup crown have taken another blow, as Christopher Nkunku is reportedly out of the tournament due to injury.

Didier Deschamps’ side already are missing a host of superstars including Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and Presnel Kimpembe.

But Nkunku is the latest French casualty, as the RB Leipzig star hobbled off the pitch during a training session.

The Socceroos kick off against France at 6am AEDT on Wednesday November 23.

ENGLAND’S INDIA CONTINGENT INSULTED BY ‘FAKE’ TAG

Three Lions fans from India outnumbered the home-bred kind nearly 10 to one and expressed outrage at being labelled “fake” as England rolled into their World Cup base in Qatar on Tuesday.

As England’s team bus pulled up in the dark at their hotel, the drums were beaten and the horns blasted by Indian fans proudly wearing England shirts and carrying England flags.

About 20 English fans were present alongside almost 200 from India’s Kerala state.

The supporters waiting for Harry Kane and his teammates also included families from Bangladesh, two young women from China and a Thai man.

There was a brief scare when temporary barriers holding back the crowd fell. No injuries were reported.

Conversation as the supporters waited was dominated by reports in the British and French media that they were “fake fans”.

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“This is degrading, there is a lot of frustration,” said Ameen Sharak, an Indian resident of Doha who works as an accountant.

Sajidh, 29, said Indian football fans in Qatar had been “outraged” by reports suggesting they had been paid to wear the shirts of World Cup nations when thousands took part in a march along the Doha seafront last Friday.

“It is purely fake news and I would like to say loud and clear that none of us have been paid in any way,” added Sajidh, who gave only one name.

“We are diehard England fans. Since childhood, my favourite player has been David Beckham. We have got Wayne Rooney fans, we have got Michael Owen fans.” The Doha march was dominated by supporters from India wearing Argentina and Brazil shirts ahead of England.

Fans who took part said it was organised on social media groups and whatsapp messages.

“This has hurt us a lot,” said another fan, Anas. “People just do not realise how much football excitement there is in Kerala.” At the last World Cup a 25 metre (80 feet) effigy of Kane was put up in one Kerala city.

“We watch the Premier League every weekend. We come from India but they have not qualified so people choose the team they want to support,” added Anas.

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The smaller English contingent was represented by the likes of Alan Hindmarsh, a construction engineers who has lived in Doha for eight years. He is convinced his country will win the World Cup.

Hindmarsh also said the hundreds of thousands of foreign fans coming to Qatar, which has been criticised over its rights record, would be surprised at what they find.

“There has been a very negative perception of Qatar, but when the fans get here and see what the reality is on the ground, the facilities and the welcome of the Qataris, it will be absolutely fantastic,” he said.

MESSI BULLISH OVER ARGENTINA CHANCES AS SUPERSTAR NAMES THREE FAVOURITES

Lionel Messi says he is cautious over Argentina’s chances as he prepares to lead the team at the World Cup, seeking to crown a glorious career by lifting the trophy in Qatar.

The South American side have won the trophy twice — in 1978 and 1986 — with Messi a defeated finalist in 2014.

“We are very excited,” Messi said in an interview with CONMEBOL, the South American football federation.

“We have a very nice group that is very eager, but we think about going little by little. We know that World Cup groups are not easy.”

Argentina’s opening match at the World Cup is on November 22 against Saudi Arabia in Group C, which also includes Mexico and Poland.

They will play a final friendly on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi against the United Arab Emirates.

“We hope to start the World Cup in the best way to face everything that comes after,” said Messi, who joined the rest of the squad in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward highlighted the strengths of the team led by Lionel Scaloni and the advantage of having an established squad, who triumphed at last year’s Copa America.

“The more you play and the more time you spend on the pitch, the more you get to know each other,” he said.

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“We know each other’s characteristics and what is best for each moment.”

The forward said he doubted there would be a surprise winner of the World Cup.

“Whenever we talk about candidates, we always talk about the same teams,” he said.

“If I have to put some above others I think Brazil, France and England are a little bit above the rest.

“But the World Cup is so difficult and so complicated that anything can happen.”

Messi, who is likely playing his last World Cup at the age of 35, said he had fully adapted to life in Paris after a difficult first year following his move from boyhood club Barcelona.

“After that year-long process, which took a long time, today I am happy where I am living and my family and I are enjoying ourselves in Paris,” he said.

Messi played for PSG on Sunday before joining his Argentina teammates in Abu Dhabi, where he took part in a training session open to the public.

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WORLD CUP HOSTS QATAR ON THE OFFENSIVE OVER RIGHTS STORM

Facing a storm of European criticism ahead of the start of the World Cup, Qatar on Tuesday stepped up its diplomatic and media riposte which has included threatening “legal” action to defend its name.

Five days from the opening game, Qatar’s chief World Cup organiser said attacks on the Gulf state had been launched because it “competed as equals and snatched” the World Cup from rival bidders. A senior member of the Qatar Football Association called European critics “the enemy”.

Facing criticism of its treatment of foreign workers and rights for women and the LGBTQ community, the wealthy Gulf state has long used the case that everyone is “welcome” at the World Cup and said opponents were acting in bad faith.

The tone has changed in recent weeks, highlighted by comments by the emir, Sheikh Tamim Hamad Al-Thani, who told the national legislature on October 25 that Qatar had faced an “unprecedented” and growing campaign” that smacked of “double standards”.

On a recent European tour, Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani said in the media interviews that there was “a lot of hypocrisy in these attacks”.

“They are being peddled by a very small number of people, in 10 countries at most, who are not at all representative of the rest of the world,” he told Le Monde without naming those involved.

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After a recent British media report on the hacking of opponents of Qatar’s World Cup hosting, a government official warned: “Qatar will not stand by when confronted by such baseless allegations, and all our legal options at our disposal are being explored to ensure those responsible are held to account.” The bitterness expressed in some newspaper editorials is starting to be seen in comments by some officials.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Hamad Al-Thani, a member of the Qatar Football Association executive, told Al-Sharq in an interview published Tuesday: “For me, the presence of the enemy is a blessing and not a curse, because this may push you to do your work in the best possible way.” Hassan Al-Thawadi, secretary-general of Qatar’s organising committee, told Al Jazeera television that the Gulf state’s unnamed opponents were jealous of its hosting.

“The campaigns are due to the fact that Qatar is an Arab country that was able to compete as equals and snatch the hosting of the tournament.” He said the attacks were based on “the stereotyped image of the Arab world, which is one of the reasons we fought to host the World Cup, to change the stereotyped idea about Arabs.” A European diplomat in Doha said the Qatar government had reached “the end of the line with the criticism.” “They blame us even though very little is coming from governments,” added the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

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IRAN’S PLAYERS FREE TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES AT WORLD CUP, SAYS QUEIROZ

Iran’s players are free to express themselves at the World Cup, coach Carlos Queiroz said on Tuesday, as the country was gripped by fresh anti-government protests.

Iranians have taken to the streets since September following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after her arrest for allegedly flouting the strict dress code for women.

The country’s players are being watched closely in Qatar for signs that they support the demonstrations.

Queiroz told a press conference: “Everybody has the right to express themselves.” He compared the situation to players in England taking the knee in anti-racism protests.

“You guys are used to bending your knees in the games. Some people agree, some people don’t agree with that. And Iran is exactly the same,” the Portuguese coach said, according to a video of the press conference.

“It is out of question to think that the Iran national team is suffering any sort of issues like that. The players, they only have one thing in mind, which is to fight for their dream to be in the second round,” Queiroz said.

“They are humble people, they understand one very simple thing. If we are able to do that, they are not only part of history because Iran was six times in the World Cup, they have never been in the second round.

“They don’t want to be only part of history, they want to make history.” Iran open their group campaign against England on Monday and will also face the United States and Wales.

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