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Roker Roundtable: The moral dilemma of Sunderland’s Friday friendly

Today, the Lads will play a highly controversial friendly game against Al-Shabab as part of their Dubai training camp. We asked our writers whether they will tune in, and if not, why

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says…

I’ve already made my feelings known about this fixture and have taken a fair bit of stick for it, but I still feel unable to follow the game in any meaningful way.

It feels like an association that we could’ve done without, and it helps neither our reputation nor any supporters in our fanbase that feel troubled or targeted by the ideals promoted by dictatorial regimes.

I know that giving minutes to some of our returning players could prove vital in the long run, so I’m finding the whole thing very tough. On one hand, I am very uncomfortable with the idea of the match but switching off when it is never usually something I would do is strange.

The confirmation of this game has proven very divisive and some of the points raised in the fallout have admittedly caused me to think a bit more.

For example, I hadn’t made the connection that Sunderland has collaborated with Paris Saint-Germain this season, and that they also have some unpleasant links, so where are we meant to stand on that?

A club can have principles, but it also needs to sign players and operate as a business, and just how much of a place does it have to make any sort of judgement on wider issues?

Football can be very murky and making such calls is never straightforward.

Today’s game doesn’t sit right with me, but I understand that for others, it means little or could even be viewed as a good thing.

With that in mind, all I can do is hope that the objections of some fans are considered by Sunderland if making similar plans in future, and that nothing bigger comes of this one.

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Malc Dugdale says...

I think Andrew has made some great points.

Is it naive and bordering on stupid that in the shadow of one of the most shady World Cup tournaments ever, our club has arranged a friendly with a team from a place with such poor standards of human rights?

Absolutely, and frankly, it’s idiocy at its finest.

Not seeing this as a foolish thing to do is one of the first ‘asleep at the wheel’ moments on behalf of those running Sunderland right now.

In my view, they’ve improved many aspects of our club, but this is a politically moronic decision to make.

Will I pay £7.50 to watch my team play a friendly against a side from such a place? No, I won’t.

I love my club and I want to see the likes of Ross Stewart , Dan Neil, Dennis Cirkin and Aji Alese back out on the pitch, building up their fitness and getting themselves sharp enough to help us approach the Christmas period in improved form.

I’m not going to openly criticise anyone for making their own decision, as the club is at fault for putting us fans between a rock and a hard place here.

Will you pay to watch the team you adore when they are taking part in a match against a side from a state whose position on so many fundamental human rights issues you simply can’t abide?

The club should not have put the fans in this quandary, and as a minimum they need to learn from the error.

The game is going to happen- whether we boycott it from afar or not- so I hope the lads run out wearing rainbow armbands and LGBTQ+ supportive coloured laces, and at least make a statement of objection as we play.

They can show everyone at home that as a club and a fanbase, we object to such barbaric positions on equality and freedom. They can show that we are willing to leave a message for all observers of this friendly- that we are playing this game but the dark, and in many ways evil backdrop to it is not okay.

That’s the least we can do.

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