An ongoing debate over whether the Norwegian national men’s football team should boycott the upcoming World Cup in Qatar, because of human rights abuses in the country, may no longer be necessary. Norway’s failure to beat Latvia’s national team during the weekend means the Norwegians may not qualify for the World Cup after all.
Norway needed to win to boost its chances for World Cup action. Its 0-0 tie against Latvia on home turf in Oslo was thus a bitter disappointment, especially when the only goal scored ended up being annulled.
Now Norway faces the mighty Netherlands on Tuesday on the Norwegian opponents’ home turf. The Netherlands has remained in first place in Norway’s qualifying group with Turkey now replacing Norway in second place but tied points-wise with Norway. Head coach Ståle Solbakken continues to believe that “everything is possible” but even former Norwegian coaches like the legenary Egil “Drillo” Olsen don’t think Norway will qualify.
That could at least halt a much-debated proposed boycott of the World Cup, which fired up again Saturday night when former Prime Minister Erna Solberg spoke out against it while heading into the Norway-Latvia match as a spectator. Her comment that Norway “should set the debate aside” since Norway’s team already has “made their position on human rights well-known … and we can all agree that there never should have been a World Cup in Qatar” given all the accusations of human rights and corruption around it. Solberg urged Norwegians to now simply cheer on their team, especially since “democratic processes” have tried to ensure Norway’s participation upon qualification.
That prompted criticism from the secretary general of Norway’s chapter of Amnesty International. “I don’t think Erna Solberg should try to put a lid on the debate in Norway,” he told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “If we hadn’t had this debate, the national team wouldn’t have mounted its own demonstrations as it has.”