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FIFA President Gianni Infantino Blasted Over “Completely Unacceptable” African Migrant Comments 

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FIFA president Gianni Infantino, during a speech to the Council of Europe on Wednesday, referenced reducing the risks taken by migrants crossing the Mediterranean as a reason why FIFA plans for a biennial World Cup should go ahead.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s comments about African migrants have been described as “completely unacceptable” by Kick It Out chief executive Tony Burnett. 

The leader of football’s world governing body spoke in support of his organisation’s calendar reforms, which include plans for biennial World Cups, at the Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

But Infantino controversially referenced migrants risking drowning in the Mediterranean during a speech on Wednesday, as he spoke about the global benefits of FIFA plans to reform the international calendar which include a proposal for biennial men’s and women’s World Cups. 

He said the proposals were vital to give the football world outside of Europe hope, declaring: “We need to give hope to Africans so they don’t need to cross the Mediterranean in order to find, maybe, a better life but more probably death in the sea.

“We need to give opportunities and we need to give dignity, not by giving charity but by allowing the rest of the world to participate.”

Burnett condemned the comments and said in a statement issued to the PA news agency: “FIFA is a multi-billion profit making organisation. They already have the funds to invest in creating and inspiring opportunity for disadvantaged people around the world.

“It is therefore completely unacceptable to suggest that a biennial World Cup, predominantly set up to drive further profits for FIFA, could be a solution for migrants who risk their lives, sometimes fleeing war-torn countries, to seek a better life.”

Burnett added: “If FIFA has a genuine commitment to tackling inequality, they should be investing time and resource into charitable causes on the ground, rather than disguising what appears to be a profit-making biennial World Cup as the answer to any existing problems.”

Infantino’s remarks were made in a debate before the 47-nation Council adopted a resolution on football governance. He has claimed his comments have been misinterpreted.

In a statement, he said: “Given that certain remarks made by me before the Council of Europe earlier today appear to have been misinterpreted and taken out of context, I wish to clarify that, in my speech, my more general message was that everyone in a decision-making position has a responsibility to help improve the situation of people around the world.CmaTrends

“If there are more opportunities available, including in Africa, but certainly not limited to that continent, this should allow people to take these opportunities in their own countries.

“This was a general comment, which was not directly related to the possibility of playing a FIFA World Cup every two years.”

Despite Infantino’s attempts to outline the benefits to global football, the Council concluded that biennial World Cups would be “disastrous” for the sport in Europe.

“The Assembly questions the advisability of the plan currently under consideration by FIFA to hold the World Cup every two years.

“It considers that such a change would have disastrous consequences for European football, which is why both UEFA and the European Leagues are strongly opposed to the project.

“It could also harm the entire sports ecosystem by making the two main global sporting events – the World Cup and the Olympic Games – compete for media coverage and therefore also financial support.”

It also called on FIFA “not to take decisions that are potentially detrimental to European football and sport worldwide without the agreement of European stakeholders and the International Olympic Committee”.

The Council gave qualified praise to FIFA on its role in promoting labour reform in 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar, but said the situation of migrant workers in the Gulf state “remains worrying and the number of tragic accidents continues to run into the hundreds”.