The Denmark manager, Kasper Hjulmand, has said he hopes the process through which Qatar was awarded the World Cup is never repeated and called for a more diverse, youthful demographic to influence the hosting of tournaments.
Denmark, highly fancied for a strong run over the next month, have been one of the more vocal countries around the off-pitch issues that cast a heavy cloud over the hosts. They remain aggrieved Fifa refused them permission to train in shirts reading “Human rights for all”, a ruling they will abide by for fear of a potentially heavy punishment. On Friday they trained in black shirts, described by the manufacturer, Hummel, as “the colour of mourning”.
Speaking at the team’s training camp in Al Sailiya, a suburb on Doha’s fringes, Hjulmand expressed the wish this year’s controversy leads to change among the decision-makers in bodies such as Fifa.
“I really don’t like the process of being here and the way Qatar was awarded the hosting of this World Cup,” he said. “I have two dreams with this. One is that in the governing bodies of football and sports we have more progressive, young, diverse people in places where decisions are being made. I hope we see these reforms.
“The second part is that in the world we have more empathy, listen and try to understand other people. It’s the only way forward. Try to do our part and make changes through this.”
It was put to Hjulmand that Denmark were being denied the chance to do that by Fifa’s hardline stance relating to their shirts, but he insisted they did not feel muzzled. “We are not silenced, believe me,” he said. “There’s hard work behind the scenes that you can’t see. There are a lot of ways to try to change things and hopefully we won’t be put in this situation again – we’ll see.”
The defender Rasmus Kristensen was blunter on the subject of shirts. “I feel like it’s a shame; it’s apparently Fifa rules,” he said. “You can disagree, and I think we do.”
Kristensen expressed the mixture of excitement and frustration felt by many of his peers. “Obviously the whole Qatar situation is a bit bizarre and I was hoping for another location – I think everybody would,” he said. “But I’m proud, happy and grateful for the opportunity to play.”
The Denmark FA chief executive, Jakob Jensen, said they were “disappointed” at Fifa’s decision to ban the shirt slogan, which was made with recourse to rules prohibiting political messages. “We don’t consider ‘Human Rights for All’ a political statement because they are universal so yes, we were disappointed,” he said.
Asked whether, given the appalling optics of any punishment, Denmark could simply have pushed on with wearing the shirts, he said: “You’d have to ask Fifa; it’s a theoretical discussion. We don’t know what the punishment would be. One option would be that we could lose points at the very end and we’re here to play football, we want to win football matches on the pitch, not behind a desk.”
In an early suggestion heat may interfere with teams’ initial plans despite the tournament’s winter hosting, Denmark moved their Friday and Saturday sessions from the morning to the cooler late afternoon. Temperatures had hit 34C earlier in the day and Hjulmand said his players could not train with the required intensity in such conditions.