Infantino sits on fence over his old pal Putin

February 25 – Choosing his words carefully, FIFA president Gianni Infantino failed to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, instead saying his organisation was “very worried” about the escalating crisis.

Unlike his UEFA counterpart Aleksander Ceferin, Infantino was unwilling to lay the blame firmly at Russia’s doors, seemingly at pains not to fall out with the football authorities in the country that staged the 2018 World Cup.

As news of Russia invading Ukraine broke, Infantino was directly asked following a FIFA Council meeting whether he regretted his past association with Russia and in particular its president Vladimir Putin.

FIFA, as an organisation, had already issued a statement saying it “condemns the use of force by Russia in Ukraine and any type of violence to resolve conflicts.”

“Violence is never a solution and FIFA calls on all parties to restore peace through constructive dialogue. FIFA also continues to express our solidarity to the people affected by this conflict.”

But at a news conference Infantino declined, on a personal level, to add this own denunciation of Putin’s conduct and dodged a question on whether he would retain a friendship medal awarded to him by the Russian supremo.

“The situation is obviously very tragic and worrying,” said Infantino.  “We are constantly reflecting on the role of sport, particularly the role of sport in trying to bring people together in a peaceful environment.”

“Even people and countries who don’t have relations or are in a conflict with each other. This is a constant in our thinking. Football is the people’s sport. It’s not about individuals.”

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