Sunday, 02 Apr 2023

Let football take the stage at Qatar World Cup, says Fifa president

Let football take the stage at Qatar World Cup, says Fifa president

Let football take the stage at Qatar World Cup, says Fifa president

The president of Fifa, Gianni Infantino, has written to all 32 competing nations at this month's World Cup, urging them to "let football take the stage" in Qatar.

An unusual plea to both football associations and players to put political and human rights concerns to one side for the duration of the tournament, Infantino's communication comes just two weeks before the start of competition and with a number of concerns on the part of both FAs and non-governmental organisations yet to be resolved.

In his letter, Infantino attempts to defuse concerns over the staging of the tournament in Qatar by arguing "there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all around the world", but football should not be expected to have an answer to every one. Regarding concerns over the safety of travelling fans in the country he reiterates a promise that "everyone is welcome regardless of origin, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality", a more detailed commitment than that currently made by the hosts.

Infantino, who has been president of Fifa since 2016, did not preside over the decision to award this year's tournament to the Gulf state, and has overseen a series of initiatives that have helped contribute towards reforms - including the abolition of the kafala system of employment - to Qatar. But he has also been effusive in his praise for the event and its hosts, claiming frequently that the country will deliver the "best ever" World Cup as well as arguing that the presence of the world's most popular sporting event will help bring about lasting change in the country.

A number of competing nations, however, are still waiting for Fifa to respond to a variety of appeals related to the tournament including providing funds to remedy the harm experienced by migrant workers in constructing World Cup stadiums. A commitment from Fifa is yet to be forthcoming on such a scheme endorsed by the Welsh, English and Dutch FAs as well as the US Soccer Federation.

Players of both England and Wales have agreed to wear rainbow armbands during matches in support of LGBTQ+ rights. This week, however, the Welsh FA said it was still waiting for the game's governing body to tell them whether the armbands might actually be banned.

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