FIFA President Says Biennial World Cup Could Solve Migrant Crisis
FIFA President Gianni Infantino sparked a firestorm on Wednesday when he claimed that a biennial World Cup would help solve Africa’s refugee crisis.
Infantino tried to sell European lawmakers the benefits of a biannual World Cup in an address to the Council of Europe. While some believe that a biannual World Cup would be nothing more than a way for a billionaire organization to make even more money, Infantino He believes that a biannual World Cup would give countries outside Europe more opportunities in football – but he went even further. Infantino said football could bring “hope” to African countries so that people there would not have to emigrate and risk “death at sea”.
“When we think about the rest of the world and most of Europe, we have to think about what football brings. Football is about opportunities, about hope, about 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 engage the whole world to give hope to Africans, so they don’t have to cross the Mediterranean to maybe find a better life but more likely to find death at sea.”
Infantino’s comments were not well received. Tony Burnett, the chief executive of Kick It Out, an organization for equality and inclusion in football, immediately condemned her.
“FIFA is a multi-billion dollar organization,” Burnett said of Sky Sports. “You already have the funds to invest in creating and inspiring opportunities for disadvantaged people around the world. It is therefore totally unacceptable to suggest that a biannual World Cup, primarily designed to generate further profits for FIFA, could be a solution for migrants who are risking their lives and sometimes fleeing war-torn countries, to seek a better life.”
Infantino: Comments were taken out of context
Later on Wednesday, after seeing the mess his comments had caused, Infantino tried to fix it. The easiest way to do that would be to apologize that a biannual World Cup could fix the African migrant crisis, but Infantino chose not to go in that direction. Instead, he decided to retract his comments, claiming they were taken out of context.
“Given that certain remarks I made today before the Council of Europe appear to have been misinterpreted and taken out of context, I would like to clarify that my broader message in my speech was that everyone in a decision-making position has it responsibility to help improve the situation of people around the world”, Infantino said in a statement posted to Twitter. “If there are more opportunities, including in Africa, but certainly not limited to this continent, that should allow people to take advantage of those opportunities in their own countries.” This was a general remark not directly related to the possibility of gambling FIFA World Cup every two years.”
Infantino is essentially saying that FIFA could create more jobs in certain countries in Africa, which in turn would discourage people from leaving and migrating to Europe. He claimed it was just a “general remark” and not a biennial World Cup. However, he said so during a speech about his ‘future of football’ strategy, which has focused solely on a biennial World Cup.