FIFA has written to World Cup teams urging them to focus on the Qatar tournament and not be a part of preaching about morality and dragging football “into every ideological or political battle out there”.
sky news has exclusively seen the full letter from FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the governing body’s Secretary General Fatma Samoura, which was sent amid mounting pressure on players to be activists at the tournament.
It has been a buildup to the World Cup dogged by concerns about the plight of migrant workers underpaid to build infrastructure in the small Gulf nation and discriminatory laws that criminalize same-sex relations.
“Please, let’s focus on football now!” Infantino and Samoura wrote to the 32 soccer nations contesting the World Cup.
“We know that football does not live in a vacuum and we are equally aware that there are many political challenges and difficulties around the world.
“But please don’t let football be dragged into every ideological or political battle out there.”
The letter does not address the request by England and Wales and six other European nations that their captains wear multicolored “One Love” armbands at the World Cup, which are a response to concerns about Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Both British nations have already said they would defy any sanctions from FIFA.
Infantino wrote: “At FIFA we try to respect all opinions and beliefs, without giving moral lessons to the rest of the world.
“One of the great strengths of the world is indeed its diversity, and if inclusion means anything, it means having respect for that diversity. No people, culture or nation is ‘better’ than another.
“This principle is the cornerstone of mutual respect and non-discrimination. And this is also one of the core values of football. So please let us remember it and let football take center stage.”
Infantino says everyone will be welcome in Qatar “regardless of origin, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality.”
The letter was sent to the nations competing in the top flight of men’s soccer with less than three weeks to go before the tournament kicks off in Qatar.
Infantino, and his leadership team, were not in their place at FIFA when a corrupt group of executive committee members voted in 2010 to award the World Cup to Qatar.
The last English team to play in Qatar was Liverpool in the Club World Cup in 2019. And Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said sky news this week “it’s not fair” to expect political statements from players around the World Cup.
The German said: “They go there to play football. It’s not about players of this generation now saying ‘we don’t go, or we don’t do that’.
“The decision [to hold the tournament in Qatar] It was made by other people, and if you want to criticize someone, criticize the people who made the decision.”
‘The letter shows how tense the World Cup will be’
Rob Harris, Sky News sports correspondent:
“With less than three weeks to go until the World Cup, the pressure on participating teams, including England and Wales, has been mounting. They are being called upon to campaign against the abuses suffered by migrant workers and are asked to highlight the discriminatory practices”. laws in Qatar.
“This is also a tournament that Russia is banned from after their invasion of Ukraine, and Ukraine, which did not qualify, has been calling for Iran to be kicked out because they claim they are supplying Russia with weapons.
“FIFA has not commented directly on those calls from Ukraine, but this important letter from President Gianni Infantino and Secretary General Fatma Samoura was sent tonight.
“It is a really significant letter: the leaders say that they do not want to give moral lessons to the whole world.
“They didn’t mention the requests from England and Wales for their captains to wear multicolored ‘One Love’ armbands to highlight those anti-LGBTQ+ laws. They say they will wear them, but this letter shows how tense the World Cup is going to be.” be after a 12-year backlog riddled with controversy.
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