World CupQatar 2022

TV View: Pundits getting a bit grumpy - the Qatar heat must be getting to them

Targets of ire include Iran, Neymar and Di María - but John Barnes isn’t hearing a word against the host country

We’re only a week in but already our pundits have become quite grumpy, Jürgen Klinsmann picking on Iran, Didi Hamann scundering Neymar, Roy Keane and Gary Neville lambasting Ángel Di María, and John Barnes aiming his fire at anyone who has been mean about Qatar.

Maybe the heat is getting to them.

As the BBC’s Steve Wilson put it when he welcomed us to the Croatia v Canada game: “You might have had a nice Sunday roast – it’s certainly roasting here.”

“That’s a dreadful intro, Steve,” Martin Keown didn’t say, but he was undoubtedly thinking it.

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Barnesie, though, won the Whataboutery World Cup when he turned up on Good Morning Britain to launch an impassioned defence of all things Qatar.

On criticism of some of the country’s laws, he reminded his hosts that Boris Johnson once called Muslim women “letterboxes”, as though it’s the law in Britain to call Muslim women letterboxes. So, his attempt to swerve past that query was a bit less impressive than his ability to to do the same to right-backs in his day.

Anyhow, he insisted that it was incumbent on folk who visit Qatar to respect their laws and scoffed at Germany’s gesture of support for the LGBT community last week.

“You have a lot of virtue-signalling going on. I don’t know whether the Germans before the World Cup were speaking out for the LGBT community...” He must have missed German captain Manuel Neuer wearing the rainbow armband since June of last year.

Need it be said, he’s entitled to his views. But when GMB presenter Ranvir Singh cited a chat Barnes had with Arabian Gulf Business Insight back in September, it’d have been nice if she’d quoted that line about him working as an “ambassador for the World Cup in Qatar to counter the negative rhetoric surrounding the tournament, particularly around worker welfare”.

“For the last two years I was going over there to visit the camps because they wanted myself and some of the players to spread the word about [conditions],” he said, berating the West for “painting a negative picture” of the circumstances migrant workers found themselves in.

Or she could have mentioned his jolly to the place in 2019 with Jason McAteer on behalf of Visit Qatar, during which the lads had a luxuriously fab time and waxed lyrical about the country.

So, hello telly people, before you give someone a mic, just let us know who they’re being paid by. Cheers.

Jürgen? Ah here, a fella accusing Iran of cheating when he never saw an imaginary leg he didn’t want to dive over?

And Roy and Nev continuing to be rude about Ángel?

Nev: “He was the biggest disappointment ever at Manchester United. He showed no heart.”

Roy: “I don’t think he’s got one.”

Now, there’s a thing with punditry in the UK where if you didn’t make it in the Premier League, you’re a no-mark.

Di María made his debut for United in a 0-0 draw against Burnley at Turf Moor in 2014, and the poor lad probably never recovered from the experience, his wife, Jorgelina Cardoso, later reflecting on the ordeal of living in England:

“People are all weird, you don’t know if they’re going to kill you. The food is disgusting. The women look like porcelain. I just told him, “Darling, I want to kill myself – it’s night-time at two o’clock.”

But he’s won the Copa América, the under-20 World Cup, scored the winner in the 2008 Olympic final, won league titles in Portugal with Benfica, in Spain with Real Madrid and in France with PSG, he’s won the Champions League and was nominated for the player of the tournament for the 2014 World Cup despite missing the final through injury.

He’s done grand, then, and while he’s largely played like a drain in Qatar (his assist to Messi for the first goal against Mexico – “I threw him a turd, but he always finds solutions to everything”), his career has been on the immense side. There is, after all, a world beyond the Premier League.

Just to cheer Roy up, though, former England international Jill Scott was asked on I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! who would be her perfect guests, alive or dead, for dinner.

“Joey from Friends, Princess Diana and Roy Keane. And then can I have David Beckham as the naked chef.”

You’d pay to be at that table.

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan is a sports writer with The Irish Times