December 29 – FIFA will continue to “put pressure” on Qatar over the treatment of migrant workers helping to build World Cup stadiums for the 2022 tournament, says Gianni Infantino.
With human rights due to become a factor in future World Cup bid processes, Qatar looks set to remain under the spotlight and while positive progress had been made, more needs to be done according to Infantino. “We will put pressure, we will continue to do that,” he told reporters.
Qatar has imported hundreds of thousands of construction workers from countries such as India, Nepal and Bangladesh for building projects but recently agreed to scrap its controversial “kafala” sponsorship system that ties foreign workers to their employers and forces them to gain special permission to change jobs or leave the country.
Meanwhile, having announced that most FIFA federations were in favour of World Cup expansion, Infantino has attempted to explain the rationale behind his thinking.
“When you increase the number of teams there’s a potential to have more lower-ranked sides, but if you look at the last World Cup, Italy and England were both eliminated by Costa Rica,” he said. “When you move into the knockouts, football is one of the only sports where anyone can beat anyone, so a spectacle will always be guaranteed. If we are serious about the development of football, then we have to be more inclusive.”
“I honestly see no downsides, only upsides. The only question is how many teams will be allowed from each confederation and that’s a political question that needs to be discussed. There are many upsides to the 48-team format, not least financially, but the decision should not just be financially driven alone, it’s also appealing because the sporting element prevails and every game will be important.”
“Expanding is also for the development of football all over the world. There is nothing bigger in terms of boosting football in a country than participating in a World Cup. For a country that is not always participating, to qualify for a World Cup in November or not makes a big, big difference. If you do qualify for the World Cup, from November to June, the whole country lives and breathes football. Everyone gets interested.”
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