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FIFA President Infantino Sparks Criticism Over Biennial World Cup Could Prevent African Migration Remarks

FIFA president Gianni Infantino sparked criticism on Wednesday when he suggested that increased revenues from a biennial World Cup could create opportunities for Africans who are dying in the Mediterranean sea going to Europe.

He later said his address to the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organisation, had been “misinterpreted” and that he meant that football could “help improve the situation of people around the world”.

The idea of a World Cup every two years has been gathering steam with Infantino trying to get support from national federations, saying the switch would create an extra $4.4 billion in revenues for the world body.

FIFA has said that the additional funds would help reduce the gap in revenues between the developed and less developed football markets.

In his speech, Infantino stressed the importance of making soccer more inclusive for countries outside of Europe. Infantino said:

 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. If we think about the rest of world and the vast majority of Europe, then we have to think about what football brings.

Football is about opportunity, about hope, about the national teams. We cannot say to the rest of world give us your money, but watch us on TV. We need to include them.

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.

Infantino’s comments were met with anger, with Ronan Evain, the executive director of Football Supporters Europe saying they were “disgusting” and that Infantino was unfit to run global football.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) European media director Andrew Stroehlein said interviewed refugees around the world have never mentioned the timing of World Cup tournaments.

Later on Wednesday, Infantino said his comments had been “misinterpreted”. He said:

If there are more opportunities available, including in Africa, but certainly not limited to that continent, this should allow people to take these opportunities in their own countries. This was a general comment.

According to the United Nations-affiliated International Organization for Migration, more than 1 315 people fled conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East but died trying to cross the Mediterranean last year.

More: NewsDay

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