– What happened yesterday was that Haaland actually commented on the human rights situation there. He did so by claiming that the journalist’s description was too vague. And then we believe that he is inviting the criticism that has come, says Egenæs, Secretary General of Amnesty International in Norway.
Erling Braut Haaland’s answer about the ownership of his employer Manchester City has triggered a number of reactions from both in and around football.
Solbakken on Braut criticism: – For me, it’s a bit overkill
On Thursday afternoon, national team coach Ståle Solbakken said that the superstar should not be spared similar questions in the future, but pointed out that the questions should ideally be addressed to those higher up in the system than Braut Haaland.
– The club is part of an approved system – the Premier League – which is part of international football. Then it comes to a point where you have to direct the spotlight elsewhere, says Solbakken.
That argument follows Egenæs.
– We have basically taken the position that we do not make individual athletes responsible for choosing a club, the same whether it is Braut Haaland in football or Alexander Kristoff in cycling. As Solbakken says, the responsibility must be lifted to the political level of sport. They are the ones who allow states to buy football clubs and establish cycling teams. That is our basic attitude, he says.
– There could be bad advisers or other reasons why he says that
But, Egenæs points out, Braut Haaland took words in his mouth which nevertheless mean that the criticism from some quarters is justified.
Specifically, it is the following choice of words from Braut Haaland that causes Amnesty to react:
– The owners of Manchester City are accused of massive human rights violations, they are accused of imprisoning their own residents. You now play for Manchester City, what do you think of the owners of the club you now represent? asked NRK.
Being asked about the City owners
– First of all – I have never met them. I don’t know them like that. Those are pretty strong accusations you make there. When you put it that way, I can’t help but not say much about it. I think that would be a bit too awkward a word there, replied Braut Haaland.
The allegation that City’s Abu Dhabi-based owners have committed “massive human rights violations” cannot be described as “extreme”, believes Amnesty.
– We believe that it invites criticism because he is doing what we believe is the purpose of owning City: He says that it is not so bad in the United Arab Emirates. There could be bad advisers or other reasons why he says that, and I understand that it is problematic, so I have some empathy with him in that situation. But the description is not too long, he says, and continues:
– One must always be careful not to put too much pressure on people or hang them out. But as soon as he comments on it there, he must expect follow-up questions. It is an important lesson, says Egenæs.
Specially Norwegian phenomenon?
Experts and the public argue about the extent to which athletes such as Braut Haaland should be held responsible for the actions of their employer, but there seems to be great acceptance in Norway that the questions can in any case be asked – both to Braut Haaland and other Norwegian athletes who play or compete for teams or clubs associated with authoritarian regimes.
Haaland had to answer questions about the City owners: – Long words
Egenæs points out that he does not follow the international sports press closely, but says that he has the impression that there is something different outside the Norwegian borders.
– I think the whole issue of sports laundering has become very relevant through the debate about a possible boycott of the Qatar World Cup. I have an experience that there are more such questions in Norway than elsewhere. Having said that, City coach Pep Guardiola was confronted by his employer a few years ago, but it may well be that the focus in Norway is greater, he says.
That experience is shared by Mina Finstad Berg, TV 2’s sports commentator, who also reserves the right to say that she does not have a complete overview of everything that is written internationally.
– I agree that there is greater attention to this in Norway than elsewhere. Some of it is probably due to the fact that it was in Norway that the Qatar debate lasted the longest. It was mobilized quite strongly among supporters and at the grassroots. That debate probably means that this topic is more prominent in the Norwegian consciousness. It probably contributes to Norwegian players being confronted with such questions to a greater extent, she says.
The moment that changed everything for Norway: – In shock
She further points to the additional factor in that Norway rarely has players at the level Braut Haaland is at and who play in such big clubs, which leads to extra attention to the club selection.
Egenæs believes that the club election comes with certain obligations.
– Such questions come with the choice he made, and he must think through how to answer them. He should not respond in a way that he did yesterday, where he says that the description of the journalist is exaggerated and wrong. Then it is easy to ask follow-up questions. If he answers A, he has to settle for answering B, he says.