Germany midfielder Joshua Kimmich said his "childhood dream" of playing in a World Cup is being tainted by the constant criticism directed at hosts Qatar from his country, while adding there is no 'real joy' in his home country for the 2022 tournament.
"I would like to be able to look forward to a World Cup, even if it takes place here," Kimmich said Tuesday before Germany's opening game against Japan the next day. "It's a huge dream for all of us, we're all on fire. We all want to play a good tournament, we all want to win tomorrow and yes, it's not our fault where the World Cup takes place."
Kimmich also talked about the general atmosphere in Germany, where there are none of the usual huge outdoor fan parties and where hundreds of pubs and bars are boycotting the tournament in protest. There are few flags flying from balconies or car windows, and little sign of any enthusiasm for the event.
"I don't feel like there's any real joy there," Kimmich added.
Germany's buildup to the tournament in Qatar has been overshadowed by fan protests at home, political statements and calls to boycott the tournament over human rights issues including the treatment of migrant workers and members of the LGBTQ community in the oil and gas-rich Persian Gulf nation.
Kimmich, who has never suggested the complaints or grievances were in any way misplaced, previously said the protests were 12 years too late in reference to FIFA's 2010 decision to award the game's most important tournament to Qatar.
The 27-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder repeated that point on Tuesday.
"We've talked a lot about the fact the World Cup was awarded here. That was 12 years ago, when I was 15, and now I somehow always have to comment on it. I don't know if it's always justified," he said.
Kimmich said he did think it was important players speak out against problems and grievances.
"But we also have to manage this balancing act of focusing on the sporting side," Kimmich said. "I mean regardless of where the World Cup is taking place, it's a World Cup, it's the biggest competition for us footballers there is.
"It's a huge childhood dream to play tomorrow and yet somehow I have the feeling that it's always being talked down a bit or that you can't really look forward to it."
Meanwhile, Kimmich's manager with the Germany team, Hansi Flick, praised the quality of Japanese football ahead of their World Cup Group E clash on Wednesday but said he is confident about his team's preparations for the tournament.
Germany lost their first 2018 World Cup group match and crashed out in the first round, their earliest exit in over 80 years.
"I have to out myself as a bit of a fan of Japanese football. They are really doing it well," Flick said on Tuesday. "We see the quality they have in the Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt's [Daichi] Kamada playing a great season or [Wataru] Endo, who is one of the best midfielders in the Bundesliga.
"It is a very big task but we go into the match prepared and look forward to it."
Information from the Associated Press and Reuters was used in this story.