Ireland’s Katie McCabe won’t be watching the World Cup in Qatar

Busy captain says tournament ‘isn’t a good look for football’ and she wouldn’t have travelled if offered the chance

It’s probably a measure of the status Republic of Ireland captain Katie McCabe now holds in her sport that her thoughts are sought on a whole range of issues beyond just her own career.

On Tuesday, when she spoke with a group of reporters via Zoom from Ireland’s training camp in Marbella, she was asked if, like her Arsenal team-mates and England internationals Lotte Wubben-Moy and Beth Mead, she would skip watching the men’s World Cup because it is being held in Qatar.

“I won’t have time to watch it, to be honest,” she said, “we’re straight back in to Champions League football. And for me, if Ireland aren’t in it, I don’t really fancy it – so think I’ll be giving that one a miss.”

“But look, it’s a fickle thing what’s going on over there and the whole background behind it,” she said in reference to the host of issues that have mired this World Cup in controversy – not least Qatar’s stance on homosexuality, McCabe a member of the LGBT community herself.


“Obviously what’s going on over there isn’t a good look for football, but the decision has been made,” she said. “The World Cup will continue and hopefully there won’t be bad news stories around it, it will just be football played and that’ll be it.”

“The World Cup is a massive stage. Obviously, (England captain) Harry Kane wearing the rainbow armband will be massive and I think it will raise visibility on the key issues that are in Qatar right now. I hope other nations do that too and take a stand while playing the games.”

Would she have travelled to Qatar for the World Cup if offered the chance?


Her thoughts, understandably enough, are more focused on next summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, although between helping Arsenal maintain their flawless start to their Super League and Champions League campaigns, McCabe hasn’t had a whole lot of time to luxuriate in the memory of that night in Glasgow when qualification was sealed for the first time.

A couple of moments since then, though, helped it all sink in, one coming on Monday when she made an appearance at a shopping centre to promote Dove’s Self-Esteem Project, which aims to help young people overcome body image issues.

“I hadn’t been home at all since the Scotland game. I had a meet-and-greet and the amount of young girls there in Ireland kits, in Arsenal kits . . . just the excitement on their faces, parents congratulating the team for what we have achieved.

“That was a big moment for me, it made me realise, ‘wow, this has actually hit a lot of people and brought a lot of joy to a lot of kids.’ It’s giving those kids something to dream about one day.”

Another moment when the achievement hit home was during the World Cup draw last month in Auckland.

“Seeing our tricolour, being a part of that whole experience,” she said. “But we’ve earned the right to be there. We don’t just want to participate, to be just another number. We’ve worked so hard to get where we are and we want to make sure we’re able to compete. The hard work starts now.”

The draw, she reckons, could have been kinder.

“To be honest, I think we’ve got one of the tougher groups,” she said. “The host nation Australia, we got the Olympic champions Canada and a quality side in Nigeria. But I think the teams can take points off each other, they’re four good sides that will give each other games.

“But to be playing the hosts in the opener in Sydney, you couldn’t ask for a better kick-start to our first World Cup – and I’m sure we’ll have plenty of supporters there.

“My brother just moved to Melbourne, literally three weeks ago, and I’ve an uncle in New Zealand, so they’ll both be there. Hopefully more of the family, too. I don’t know how my Mam will handle the flight to Sydney, but she’ll have to take one for the team.”

Ireland’s build-up begins with a friendly against Morocco next Monday in Marbella, Morocco also having qualified for their first World Cup, becoming the first women’s team from an Arab nation to do so.

It will be an especially significant game for McCabe’s long-time team-mate Louise Quinn who, if selected, will win her 100th cap.

“Louise has been such a rock for us for as long as I have been in the team. She’s such a massive figure, on and off the field. She’s not just a fantastic player, but an unbelievable person.

“We used to kill each other playing for Raheny and Peamount – but at Arsenal I saw another side to Louise, how she’d do anything for you, put her body on the line for whoever she’s representing. She fully deserves it, it will be a proud day and I know all her family will be proud of her too.”

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan is a sports writer with The Irish Times