Saturday, May 28

The growth of the World Cup could help prevent African migrants from dying at sea, suggests FIFA president Infantino

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has suggested a biennial World Cup could prevent African migrants from “dying at sea” in a controversial speech at the Council of Europe Assembly. He later backed down on his comments a bit, distancing his suggestion from the two-year World Cup proposal.

Infantino has been pushing his much-debated Future of Football project for many months, with former Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger leading the initiative which has proposed holding a World Cup every two years instead of four.

The plans have been widely rejected by political and European organisations, but Infantino is undeterred, now claiming the change is crucial for the future of the game in African countries.

What did Infantino say?

Infantino has risked a backlash by suggesting the growth of the World Cup could prevent African migrants from risking their lives to enter Europe in search of “opportunities”.

The 51-year-old told the parliamentary assembly in Strasbourg: “This issue is not about whether we want a World Cup every two years, but what we want to do for the future of football.

“If we think about the rest of the world and the vast majority of Europe, then we have to think about what football brings. Soccer is an opportunity, a hope, the national teams. We can’t tell the rest of the world ‘give us your money, but watch us on TV’. We have to include them.

“We need to find ways to include the whole world to give Africans hope that they don’t have to cross the Mediterranean to find perhaps a better life but more likely death at sea. We need to give opportunities, give dignity. Not out of charity but allowing the rest of the world to participate. Maybe the World Cup every two years is not the answer. We discuss it.

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Infantino later attempted to retract his quote via official FIFA social media accounts, defending the original claim but trying to distance his comments from the idea of ​​a biennial World Cup.

“Given that certain statements I made before the Council of Europe today appear to have been misinterpreted and taken out of context,” Infantino said in a statement, “I wish to clarify that, in my speech, my more general message was that all in one decision-making position have a responsibility to help improve the situation of people around the world. If more opportunities are available, including in Africa, but certainly not limited to that continent, this should allow people to take advantage of these opportunities in their own countries. This was a general comment, which was not directly related to the possibility of playing a FIFA World Cup every two years.”

What was the reaction to Infantino’s comments?

The most notable reaction to Infantino’s bizarre suggestion came from the English equality and racism watchdog Kick It Out.

Kick It Out CEO Tony Burnett issued a reactionary statement, saying: “FIFA is a multi-billion dollar for-profit organization. They already have the funds to invest in creating and inspiring opportunities for disadvantaged people around the world.” world. Therefore, it is completely unacceptable.” to suggest that a biennial World Cup, set up primarily to generate higher profits for FIFA, could be a solution for immigrants who risk their lives, sometimes fleeing war-torn countries, in search of a better life.

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Andrew Stroehlein, European media director at Human Rights Watch, posted on social media: “My colleagues at Human Rights Watch interview refugees around the world almost every day. They never mention the timing of the World Cup tournaments.” .

Opposition to a biennial World Cup

Infantino, Wenger and former FIFA president Sepp Blatter have all spoken passionately about the possible benefits of holding the World Cup more regularly, but their plans have not been well received by the soccer community.

MORE: Explaining FIFA’s proposal for the biennial World Cup

European football fans [FSE] The organization has declared that “we neither want nor need any more World Cups”, while UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has warned that European soccer’s main governing body and CONMEBOL could boycott future tournaments.

Several active footballers have also spoken out to condemn the proposal, including Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

“You hear they want to put on a European Championship and a World Cup every year,” he told Sky Sports in October. “When will we rest? Never. So in the end, the best players will get injured all the time and that’s it.”

“It’s something that should be much better and better taken care of. We are not robots.”

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