By Andrew Warshaw
September 18 – FIFA president Gianni Infantino today justified attending this week’s US-brokered diplomatic agreement between Bahrain, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, an arrangement which prompted outrage amongst the Palestinian community.
Despite FIFA’s ostensibly non-political stance, Infantino and Trump, both under scrutiny in their own countries, have become firm allies since the awarding of the 2026 World Cup to the US, Mexico and Canada.
During his third trip to Washington since then, the FIFA boss visited the offices of the US Department of Justice (DOJ), thanking the US authorities for their work in the fight against corruption in football.
He went on to attend the landmark signing ceremony aimed at improving relations in the Middle East, his first meeting with Trump since a special prosecutor in Switzerland opened a criminal investigation against him in July.
Infantino’s apparent support for the deal will not have endeared him to the Palestinians who have long taken the view he is siding with Israel, especially under the Trump administration, rather than take a neutral stance – whether or not that is true.
“It was an honour to be invited as the FIFA president to such an historic moment,” Infantino told reporters at a post-FIFA Congress online video press conference. “It was a very special occasion because this is what we are standing for.”
Infantino made no apologies for attending the summit.
“We want the Palestinians to play football and for this ….we are obviously interested in having peace in that region.”
“Once the politicians agree on peace and establishing normal relations, that’s where football can come in and play a role.”
Infantino revealed FIFA were planning some kind of peace match “as a symbol of bringing people together.”
“The UAE, Bahrain, Israel, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the whole Gulf region, all these countries are equal members of FIFA,” he said, a statement not every federation in the region might agree with.
During his press conference, Infantino also disclosed that this year’s Club World Cup in Qatar could be delayed or scrapped due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The competition, which brings together the club champions from the six regional confederations, is due to take place in December as part of the preparations for hosting the first ever winter World Cup 11 months later.
However, delays to international club fixtures mean it could be pushed back to 2021 — or abandoned altogether.
“When it comes to the current Club World Cup of 2020, since many confederations or some confederations will probably not conclude their Champions Leagues until December, it is unlikely that this event will take place in December of this year as was originally planned.
“But we are discussing, we are monitoring, we are seeing if it can be hosted in Qatar maybe at the beginning of (next) year. We certainly want to see if we can keep it, we will do that consulting all the confederations and all the participating clubs and take the best decision for football.”
Earlier Infantino, unable to resist commenting on FIFA’s improved governance under his leadership, told delegates that funding to member federations was now being used properly “because the money doesn’t disappear any more”.
“We know exactly where this money goes and why. We know it will not solve all the problems but it helps – it helps our youth, the amateur games, our women’s football, all those who need some help.”
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