By Samindra Kunti
January 26 – FIFA president Gianni Infantino has taken his sales pitch for a biennial World Cup to new, unprecedented and questionable levels when he seemed to link a World Cup every two years to a better future for refugees crossing the Mediterranean.
In a speech to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Infantino, who called himself “a son of immigrants” and “a product of European integration and of the values human rights and inclusion” addressed his proposal for a biennial World Cup revolution that has caused deep rifts within football.
“We need to find ways to include the entire world,” he said, “to give hope to Africans so that they don’t need to cross the Mediterranean in order to find, maybe, a better life, but more probably death in the sea. We have to give them opportunities and dignity.”
It was a staggering remark from the FIFA president who has never been shy of stepping into the spotlight to present his organisaton as reformed and cleansed of corruption.
Infantino’s implication that a biennial World Cup would stop African migrants from dying in the Mediterranean was something of a fanciful stretch, even for him.
However, although Infantino failed to provide further details on how a biennial World Cup would solve migration issues, he did address human rights in Qatar, claiming that the kafala system has been abolished.
On somewhat safer ground than the fickle and dangerous waters of the Mediterranean, Infantino spoke of reform of the transfer system saying: “It is very important that we have transparency, that we avoid excessive commissions and that we make sure that money goes where it has to go, which is into the development of players, into solidarity, into the development of football.”
He also found space in his speech to address the safeguarding of the vulnerable.
Last year at Congress, the Saudi Arabian Football Federation launched the idea for the World Cup to be staged every two years and ever since FIFA has been promoting proposals for the reform of the international match calendar, with Arsene Wenger as one of its fiercest advocates. Following the last FIFA Council, Infantino however struck a more moderate tone and backpedalled on his plans to force through a biennial World Cup following resistance from UEFA, Conmebol and leagues and clubs around the world.
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