He wanted to make a mark. The first press conference of the German Football Association (DFB) was held in Qatar on Friday afternoon – and Bernd Neuendorf had brought several clear messages with him.
It was important to the president of the association that the day after the arrival of the German team and those responsible for them there was no doubt that they wanted to position themselves clearly at the World Cup, which began on Sunday. On Wednesday (2 p.m., in the WELT sports ticker), the Germans meet Japan in their first group game – but there is much more to this controversial World Cup than sporting issues.
The 61-year-old, for whom it is the first World Cup in his office, sat down on the podium of the DFB media center at the German training ground, the Al Shamal Stadium in Al-Ruwais, north of the capital Doha, and outlined a special campaign by the DFB Association: The national team supports an SOS Children's Village in Nepal with one million euros for five years.
"We believe that this is a measure that sets a real example that is sustainable," said Neuendorf. The national players "have a very good sense of the situation in which we find ourselves next to football".
Hundreds of thousands of guest workers live in Qatar, especially from Nepal and India. Their living and working conditions had repeatedly caused loud criticism of the World Cup hosts in recent years. "We want to support where the people come from," said Neuendorf.
The situation of having to emigrate because of poverty should not be repeated for the children in Nepal. The campaign is financed by the national team’s foundation, which was established in 2020. "This is money that comes from the team, directly from the players," said Neuendorf. The board of trustees includes national players, including captain and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
"Tourists and World Cup fans have not yet come in droves," reports Steffen Schwarzkopf from Doha. Qatar is expecting up to 1.2 million fans over the course of the World Cup, but the WELT reporter cannot really imagine that so far.
Source: WORLD / Steffen Schwarzkopf
The association pays the money in five tranches, 200,000 euros per year. According to Neuendorf, there are currently 400,000 Nepalese migrant workers living in Qatar. “The children and young people should get an education with the help of the money. The next generation should not be forced to leave the country again. That is the goal2, explained the DFB boss.
Did you decide to take action outside of Qatar because action in the World Cup host country could cause trouble? "That's not the case at all," said Neuendorf. One wants to start there "where people are exposed to the pressure of poverty and the pressure to emigrate."
Neuendorf does not rule out other socio-political signs from the German national team for human rights during the World Cup. "We have remained in such a way that we expressly reserve the right to do so," he said.
In coordination with other European nations, Neuer will wear a multicolored "One Love" captain's armband during the finals. It is still unclear whether the world association Fifa would impose a sanction for this.
"Personally, I would be quite willing to accept a fine," said Neuendorf: "For me, this is not a political statement, but a statement for human rights." The bandage stands for the fight "against racism, against anti-Semitism, for women's rights and human rights in general”.
Neuendorf also spoke about his role during the World Cup. He is the head of a five-person delegation from the federation and will regularly travel to Doha from the German base to meet representatives from FIFA, the Qatar FA and other federations.
When asked about the letter from Fifa President Gianni Infantino, which says that from now on it should no longer be about human rights, he said: "We are irritated and disturbed."
That's why the DFB doesn't want to support Infantino's re-election. Neuendorf said: "We made this decision because we believe we have to make a mark."
Recently, a training shirt from the Danish national team with the inscription “Human Rights for All” was banned. Neuendorf: "I don't think we're talking about a political decision on 'Human Rights for All' that you can make one way or the other. Human rights are binding all over the world. This is not a classic political message. We all have to be able to gather behind it.”
And sporty? Neuendorf is confident after the first hours in the German quarter. "I am firmly convinced that it will be a positive start and that we will certainly win the game," said the president, looking ahead to the game against Japan. "We have the best conditions."
"If you want to avoid the hustle and bustle, you've come to the right place here," says Steffen Schwarzkopf about the headquarters of the DFB team in Qatar. Our WELT reporter reports on a wellness resort that houses the German national team.
Source: WORLD / Steffen Schwarzkopf
He spoke of a "real unity, that applies to the coaching team, that applies to the players". A few days before the important first game, the "tension" increased, said Neuendorf. "You can feel that the tournament is approaching." According to Fifa, 35,000 World Cup tickets were sold to Germany.