Infantino snubs the world’s media, refusing to hold a post-Congress press conference

By Samindra Kunti in Bangkok

May 20 – On Friday, following the conclusion of the Congress, FIFA president Gianni Infantino refused to stage a press conference, further souring his relationship with the press. 

Over the course of three days in the Thai capital, Infantino ignored and dodged questions from the press over Saudi Arabia, but in the hours leading up to the FIFA Congress, it became clear that for the first time in modern history, the FIFA president would not hold a press conference at the end of the world governing body’s annual meeting

As he departed the congress hall on Friday, after an impromptu meeting with the All India Football Federation (AIFF), Infantino once again refused to take questions from journalists.

Infantino has not spoken to the media since October 2023 when FIFA modified the bidding process for the 2034 World Cup.

Saudi Arabia is the sole candidate for that tournament after other interested countries in Asia and Oceania were given less than a month to consider a bid. Australia quickly realised that a bid would be futile, even more so after the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) endorsed Saudi Arabia.

The FIFA president has had a long troubled relationship with the media.

He held his infamous ‘I feel gay, I feel a migrant worker’ speech on the eve of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, aimed at sections of the Western media, who reported in detail on the treatment of suffering of the workforce in Qatar.

However, last year at the FIFA Congress in Kigali, Rwanda, Infantino doubled down and asked the press: “Why are some of you so mean?”

In response to Infantino’s question, The Athletic’s Matt Slatter said: “I have got an answer. The criticism I gave for your speech in Doha was not about your gag on red hair, it was about the implicit and explicit criticism you made of dozens of people in that room of the reporting they had done over a decade on Qatar’s labour rights rules.

“You said we were racists. Now, ironically that is the word the UN special rapporteur used or uses about the labour rights situation in Qatar. That is what upset me and a great many people that I spoke to that day. They were deeply offended that you called us racists.”

It was a foreboding interaction during a tense news conference and a year later in Bangkok, Infantino simply snubbed the press, evading any form of accountability in the world’s media.

FIFA’s communications department did not reply when asked for an explanation as to why the organisation scrapped the press conference that was originally listed to take place 30 minutes after the congress ended.

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