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Abandon Talk Of Ronaldo, Messi, Or Salah: The One Player Footballers Everywhere Should Stand Up And Take Notice Of

Riku Riski has declined to offer to play a match in Qatar
Riku Riski has declined to offer to play a match in Qatar

The football award season has now ground to a halt and the obvious candidates have been of course rightly rewarded for their achievements throughout the year after we bore witness to a smashing 2018 football calendar.

Real Madrid’s Luka Modric finally broke the Ballon d’Or duopoly of Lionel Messi and former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo who have dominated the award for the past decade. The Croatian received the accolade from France Football back in December, to go with his earlier-collected FIFA ‘The Best’ award after taking his national team all the way to the World Cup Final. Messi himself was awarded Player of the Year 2018 earlier by Spanish publication Marca. Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah got his name in the books by taking home the FIFA Puskas Award for best goal of the year.

There is however one particular footballer who may well be as deserved of acclaim - if not more - due to taking an initiative on an issue that continues to go worryingly under the radar.

Finland international Riku Riski has taken an extremely admirable stance on his country’s proposed friendly with Sweden to be held in Qatar, withdrawing himself from contention for a place on the plane because of “the ethical reasons and values I wanted to act upon” (via The Guardian).

Qatar, the controversial host of the 2022 World Cup, has a dubious history of human rights allegations thrown at them include violations of workers’ rights, particularly migrant workers, women’s rights, and accusations of torture and restriction of freedom of expression.

“I got an invitation, then talked to the general manager and the head coach [Markuu Kanerva],”

“They understood, but were of a different opinion. I stuck with my decision, and have nothing more to add. I was pretty clear; I didn’t want to go.”

Riski - who plays for HJK Helsinki - has consequently become a welcome exception in a football community too used to taking a blind eye on such matters. Former Barcelona players Samuel Eto’o and Xavi currently ply their trade in the Arab state.

Barca - whose motto is infamously ‘Més que un club’ (‘more than a club’) - have had their ethics previously called into question when they adopted Qatari Airways as their shirt sponsor between 2013 and 2018, and the Qatar Foundation for two years preceding that.

Finnish FA President Ari Lahti addressed the issue by saying the match scheduled intended “to improve awareness of human rights and working conditions in Qatar.”

“Our message is clear - we do not accept violations of human and labour rights for migrant workers.

 “It is the responsibility of the Qatari authorities… to ensure safe working conditions for employees.”

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