Strange performance by FIFA President Infantino

FIFA president Gianni Infantino is upset in Doha, giving hope that microphones in stadium stands will be turned off as often as possible in the next four weeks.

Gianni Infantino: «Today I feel Qatari, today I feel Arab, today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled, today I feel like a migrant worker.”

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Before the start of the World Cup on Sunday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino would have had plenty of opportunities to push for concrete changes in host country Qatar. For example, he could have worked to ensure that Abdullah Ibhais, the former press officer for the World Cup organizing committee, received a fair trial.

In a Whatsapp discussion hosted by the organizer, the Jordanian sided with guest workers when they complained about non-payment of wages in 2019 and went on strike. Later, some of the text messages were disseminated by journalists. There was a rift between Ibhais and World Cup boss Hassan Al Thawadi. Soon after, the Jordanian was arrested and convicted on dubious bribery charges. Human rights organizations have criticized the trial against Ibhais, whose prison conditions, according to his family, were tightened before the start of the World Cup.

There has been no public statement from Infantino on this case. She let the pass go to do something tangible. Instead, at a press conference in Doha the day before the opening match, the Swiss dared to claim that improvements in working conditions at World Cup construction sites were mainly due to FIFA. And not the human rights activists and reporters who denounced security deficits and documented deaths for years. Or those companies that are active there and are at least trying to reform themselves. Infantino said: “Who takes care of the workers? Who? FIFA does it, football does it, the World Cup does it and, to be fair, Qatar does too.”

Football lives not because of, but in spite of Infantino

Once in motion, the most powerful referee in the world of football also pronounced the following sentences into the microphone: “Today I feel like a Qatari, today I feel like an Arab, today I feel like an African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled, today I feel like a migrant worker.”

A few days ago he had felt like a world politician. Infantino made a brief trip from Qatar to the G-20 summit in Bali to demand a ceasefire in Ukraine from the leaders present for the duration of the World Cup. Infantino’s predecessor, Joseph Blatter, once dreamed of winning the Nobel Peace Prize. That wasn’t realistic, but Blatter could at least use the argument that the 2010 World Cup was held in Africa for the first time. His successor is far from such a success.

Few officials overestimate themselves, their importance, and the role of their organization as drastically as Infantino. But football is alive, not thanks to the president of the World Football Association, but in spite of him. As of this Sunday the ball will finally roll.

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