Gianni Infantino, the president of football’s global governing body FIFA, has said his remarks about a biennial World Cup and bringing “hope” to refugees crossing the Mediterranean have been “misinterpreted.”
Speaking in an address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Wednesday, Infantino spent the final part of his speech talking about FIFA and its “Future of Football” initiative.
That initiative includes plans to host a World Cup every two years — rather than four — after the international match calendars for women’s and men’s football expire in 2023 and 2024 respectively.
“This topic is not about whether we want a World Cup every two years, but about what do we want to do for the future of football,” said Infantino, who went on to argue that, in Europe, it feels like the World Cup “takes place twice per week because the best players are playing [there].”
He continued: “We need to find ways to include the entire world, 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 need to give opportunities and we need to give dignity, not by giving charity, but by allowing the rest of the world as well to participate.
“Now maybe the World Cup every two years is not the answer. We discuss it. We debate it. We started the process.”
Tony Burnett, the CEO of anti-racism group Kick It Out, later said in a statement sent to CNN that it was “completely unacceptable” for Infantino to suggest a biennial World Cup “could be a solution for migrants who risk their lives, sometimes fleeing war torn countries, to seek a better life.”
According to data from the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, close to 5,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta via the Mediterranean so far this year. – CNN.