In the pantheon of corrupt-ass jobs, few things compare to being the president of FIFA. But even with the acknowledgment of self-interest and rampant impropriety, nobody was prepared for Gianni Infantino on Wednesday.
Infantino, who has been the head of soccer’s international governing body since 2019, addressed a group at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of European on Wednesday to explain his vision for the sport. It somehow found a way to be even more offensive than ludicrous, and it was really ludicrous.
The biggest quote garnering attention is when Infantino suggested that if FIFA moved to having a World Cup every two years instead of four, it would provide so much hope to African refugees that they would stop trying to illegally enter Europe and die in boats that capsize. I’m being absolutely serious, he said this, and this is not an occasion where we had to read between the lines either.
“We need to find ways to include the whole 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.”
The hot-button issue of a bi-yearly World Cup has been a FIFA dream for years, because, money, but it’s been met with considerable resistance from EUFA and other governing bodies in the sport who feel it will take away from other international competitions. It’s making Infantino desperate to herald in the two-year vision, which in turn has led him to saying ludicrously racist shit like this.
Infantino’s racist comments are being slammed by the international community. Ronan Evain who serves as the chief executive of Football Supporters Europe, Tweeted:
How low can Infantino go? Instrumentalising death in the Mediterranean to sell his megalomaniac plan is beyond words. And in front of @PACE_News, no less.— Ronan Evain (@RonanEvain) January 26, 2022
Disgusting. He is not fit to run global football. https://t.co/N8QP8qXYzC
It should be noted that despite Infantino’s ludicrous claims, the vast majority of refugees fleeing into Europe do not come from sub-Saharan Africa, which honestly, doesn’t even really matter — the claim that having a world cup every other year would solve the myriad reasons people seek asylum is offensive beyond belief.
To finish up the daily double from Infantino was him launching into effusive praise of Qatar, controversially chosen to host the World Cup later this year despite humanitarian and human rights concerns.
FIFA President also underlined the significant progress achieved by Qatar in the field of human rights as recognised by many international experts, a progress which came as a result of the spotlight of the World Cup. pic.twitter.com/AtV3eDYQYY— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) January 26, 2022
Naturally, Infantino didn’t offer sources on his claims that “significant progress had been achieved.” A 2020 report by the U.S. State Department had numerous concerns about freedom of expression and discrimination inside of Qatar, while the 2021 report card on the country from Human Rights Watch expressed similar concerns — adding a pattern by Qatar of denying Covid vaccination to marginalized group, as well as continuing worries about the lack of rights women have inside the country.
So unless something has drastically changed in the last six months, it’s business as usual in Qatar. Spoiler alert: Nothing has changed in the last six months. This all comes less than a year after reports emerged that over 6,500 migrant workers have died in the construction of stadiums to house the World Cup itself.
FIFAs love of money and power trump everything else, including basic human decency. There are no lengths the organization won’t go to in order to keep the money printer whirring, and that includes making spurious claims about the plight of refugees, or claiming that persecution and death is “actually good” in preparation for the World Cup. This goes so far beyond sport, and Infantino is simply a terrible person. Lucky for him being a terrible person is part of the job when it comes to leading FIFA.