Norway manager says ‘world’s most intelligent man’ Arsene Wenger has been ‘brainwashed’ by FIFA
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Norway manager Stale Solbakken says Arsene Wenger has been "brainwashed" into making "the most stupid statements" in his role at FIFA.
Earlier this month, former Arsenal manager Wenger was widely criticised after he claimed teams who avoided ‘political demonstrations’ at the World Cup performed better than those who did not.
The 73-year-old, who is currently chief of global football development at FIFA, was speaking at the World Cup Technical Study Group briefing when he made the following comments.
“The teams who were not disappointing in their first game performance – because when you got to the World Cup you know you have not to lose the first game – are the teams with experience, they have results … they played well in first game,” Wenger said.
“The teams as well who were mentally ready and had the mindset to focus on the competition and not on political demonstrations.”
🗣 "Teams like France, England, and Brazil played well in the first game. The teams who were mentally ready to focus on the competition and not on political demonstration."— Football Daily (@footballdaily) December 4, 2022
Arsene Wenger says teams who avoided political demonstrations played better at the #FIFAWorldCup pic.twitter.com/QGWOEhSWCu
Solbakken has since responded to Wenger's comments in an interview with Norwegian TV channel TV2, and he didn't hold back in his assessment.
"It shudders me to see that the smartest man in the world, Arsene Wenger, who has been looked up to over the years, has somehow been brainwashed and is now making the most stupid statements,"
"It's scary with all the people we've looked up to in the football world for years. There is a polarisation taking place right now. And I'm afraid that it will only get worse."
Ahead of the tournament opener last month, Solbakken said more should have been done to stop the World Cup in Qatar from happening.
“FIFA has been the biggest failing,” he said. “I think nobody is comfortable with it. My personal concerns are on the human rights issue and how FIFA have handled it, which has not been good.
"I don’t think football has done enough, I don’t think journalists have done enough.
“It’s only in the last few years that it is suddenly ‘oh the World Cup in Qatar’. The first years after it was given to Qatar, the whole world was more or less asleep, including football people and journalists.
"We have had strong feelings about Qatar all along, and have tried to put pressure on FIFA and on the political side of it.”
Last year, Norway players staged a protest against the human rights issues in Qatar ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Gibraltar by wearing t-shirts containing the words "HUMAN RIGHTS - on and off the pitch".
Martin Odegaard and manager Stale Solbakken had announced Norway would be making a statement prior to the game.
"We're working on something concrete," Solbakken said in a pre-match press conference.
"It's about putting pressure on FIFA to be even more direct, even firmer with the authorities in Qatar, to impose stricter requirements."
Odegaard added: "I have the impression that a lot of (players) are interested in this, care about it and want to do something to try and contribute in a good way."