DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal was more polite Wednesday about the World Cup host though he still offered support to Dutch fans who are boycotting Qatar.
In his first news conference since arriving in Qatar, the veteran coach was asked about his famous comment with an expletive in March that it was “ridiculous” for FIFA to go to the tiny emirate in the name of developing the game.
“But I think you have to play in football countries (with) more experience with everything but also to stimulate that country in another way, that they are at the right way,” Van Gaal said Wednesday.
“And this is also a small country now. My family and friends have a lot of difficulties to find a place (to stay),” said Van Gaal, who led the Dutch to the 2014 World Cup semifinals in Brazil in the second of his three spells in the job.
Qatar has been on a massive construction spree since FIFA officials voted for its World Cup hosting 12 years ago, and the treatment of low-paid migrant workers has been widely criticized.
The Netherlands soccer federation also leads the “One Love” anti-discrimination project supported by most of the European teams in Qatar. Their captains have pledged to wear armbands with a heart-shaped, multi-colored logo drawing attention to Qatar’s law criminalizing homosexuality and treatment of LGBTQ people.
Van Gaal said he supported fans who decided not to travel to Qatar because of rights issues.
“Because they believe in that and they have to do that. So, no problem with that,” the 71-year-old former Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United coach said.
“And I hope that we play so fantastic that at the end of the tournament, when we play the final, they shall look (at) the television how good we are.”
Van Gaal praised the quality of preparation for his team which starts Monday against Senegal. Group A also includes Qatar and Ecuador.
“The organization and the pitches and everything, the facilities -- these are very good,” he said.
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The Associated Press