World Cup Zoff at FIFA Congress
Rags are flying between Norway and Qatar
3/31/2022 3:53 p.m
Norway’s association president Klaveness delivered a powerful call to defend human rights in Qatar at the FIFA Congress – and was criticized from several quarters. FIFA President Gianni Infantino defends the World Cup hosts and is running for a third term.
The Norwegian association president Lise Klaveness has harshly criticized the world football association FIFA for awarding the World Cup to Qatar. “The World Cup was awarded by FIFA in an unacceptable way and that had unacceptable consequences,” said the 40-year-old during her remarkable speech at the 72nd FIFA Congress in Doha: “Human rights, equality, democracy and core interests of football weren’t in the starting XI. Those basic rights were pushed off the field and onto the substitutes’ bench.”
FIFA must take care of the “injured migrants at the World Cup construction sites, for the families of the workers who died (in Qatar, d. Red),” said Klaveness: “There is no place for hosts who do not ensure the safety of the World Cup workers No place for leaders who don’t host women’s games. No place for organizers who don’t ensure the safety and respect of the LGBQT+ movement.”
The world association had tackled the issues, but only under pressure from outside and not enough. “The time to act is now. FIFA must do what it is supposed to do – lead the way. Include sustainable values in all decisions, introduce transparency, zero tolerance for corruption and promote the game for women,” said Klaveness. If you keep looking away, the stadiums will soon be empty.
The Norwegian FA will “support any initiative to ensure the core ideas of football, human rights and against discrimination,” she explained: “Football speaks one language. Our game can inspire dreams and break down barriers. But only if the leaders are right and up operate at the highest level.”
Qatar reacts upset
As Klaveness left the podium, she received only muffled applause from the audience. Immediately afterwards, Honduras Secretary General Jose Ernesto Mejia spoke up, not planning to speak but feeling it was “important” after the speech. He understands the concern, “but we don’t think it’s right to discuss and analyze this here and now,” he criticized. It should be about football, says Mejia.
The head of the World Cup organization, Hassan Al-Thawadi, also reacted angrily. “Madam President comes to our country and has not tried to contact us and has not tried to start a dialogue,” he said. He pointed out that international organizations such as trade unions had attested progress. “We’ve always been open to dialogue. It’s about discussion. We’ve always maintained open doors, the doors are open for everyone before making a judgment.”
As usual, FIFA President Gianni Infantino also defended the World Cup hosts Qatar on the issue of human rights and praised the progress made. “The work is exemplary for many other countries, even if of course not everything is perfect yet,” said the boss of the World Football Association: “It’s not paradise yet, but it’s not a country in the world. We will continue, but it a lot has already been achieved.”
After taking office in 2016, he made one of his first business trips to Qatar to address the issue of human rights. Because he believes, the 52-year-old continues, “that you can only achieve positive change through commitment and dialogue. You have to build a partnership, and that’s what we did. We found a very committed partner who does what is necessary is to bring about the necessary change.”
In order to document the supposed progress, an almost ten-minute video was also shown. At the final press conference, Infantino added: “We are already experiencing the legacy of the World Cup before it even started” because, among other things, human rights had been improved in Qatar. Even before the event, numerous human rights organizations had repeatedly denounced the world association and Infantino in particular for dealing with the emirate.
Infantino also announced that he would run for a third term as FIFA President. The election is planned for the next congress next year. “It’s the last Congress before the one where there are new elections. You are the affiliates, so the first thing I want to tell you is that I’m running for re-election at the 73rd Congress,” Infantino said.
Infantino succeeded Joseph S. Blatter, who had resigned, in 2016. The Swiss was re-elected in 2019, a maximum of three terms of office are allowed for a president. The FIFA Council officially started the application process on Wednesday and decided on the schedule up to the vote. The deadline for notifying candidates was set at four months before the Congress, and the deadline for notifying the names of proposed and approved candidates was set at one month before the Congress.