Welsh football star Jess Fishlock says she’s gutted that the men playing for Wales in the World Cup in Qatar have to deal with the politics surrounding it.
In an interview with ITV Wales, the nation's most capped footballer said it’s unfair and that the World Cup squad should be allowed to just enjoy their achievement.
“Let’s let them enjoy what they deserve to enjoy when it comes to the World Cup and football. Let’s support them and get behind them and allow people like us to deal with everything else.”
She says she’s proud of the way the Welsh side has committed to the captain wearing the ‘One Love’ armband despite protest from FIFA, who have now launched their own.
Fishlock is in Qatar as an ambassador for the Football Association of Wales and was speaking at the launch of Wales' presence in Qatar.
She admitted that travelling to the country wasn’t an easy decision but says after a few days there she’s glad she decided to come.
The 35-year-old believes her presence, along with that of other like minded ambassadors from other nations, can create change.
“It wasn’t too long ago that I had to come out in Wales to create change” she says, “these things aren’t going to happen overnight, but the conversations are happening.”
There has been wave after wave of negative coverage about the country in the build up to the tournament.
Football chiefs have been slammed for the decision to hold the finals in the Middle Eastern nation, where the treatment of migrant workers and the rights of LGBTQ+ people have been thrust into the spotlight.
In a speech hitting back at the criticism, FIFA President Gianni Infantino attempted to equate discrimination faced by migrant workers, LGBTQ+ people and other minorities to his experiences of being bullied as a child for having freckles and red hair.
Jess Fishlock said those comments weren’t helpful and believes Infantino will regret the speech he made. But she also defended him, saying he was under great pressure given all of the negativity surrounding the tournament.
She says she understands why people in Qatar may be feeling defensive.
“I say that because I have spent time with locals here, they’re saying, we are a nice place and we’re good people, we are not what the media is saying.”
“Obviously their beliefs and the way that they work, you can’t really question that. I do believe you can live by those beliefs while also not oppressing anybody or making them criminals when they aren’t.”
Fishlock went onto say that she does still feel apprehensive knowing the beliefs held about homosexuality.
She admitted she's a little on edge but was keen to stress that for the most part she's having a great time.
Wales face the USA in their first group game on Monday, before playing Iran and England.
Fishlock believes the side have the ability to get out of the group as long as they come out fighting in the first game.
But whatever happens she believes that for Wales as a nation the team has already won.
"We love them" she says, "whether they win, lose or draw we just love them, they don’t have to go and do anything spectacular to earn that from us they have it already."
Fishlock is engaged to fellow OL Reign teammate and American footballer Tziarra King.
She says her fiancee has no choice but to support Wales when they play the USA in their first World Cup fixture, claiming it's non-negotiable!
"She knows that there’s no point having a discussion, she’s going to be Welsh tomorrow!"