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Gianni Infatino, the President of the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) has risked anger from Africans with his statement on the importance of staging the World Cup every two years.
Infantino stated during a speech at the Assembly of the Council of Europe that a biennial staging of the global football festival will provide opportunities for countries in Africa.
“If we think about the rest of the 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 the 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.
“We need to give opportunities, to give dignity. Not by charity but by allowing the rest of the world to participate. Maybe the World Cup every two years is not the answer. We discuss it.”
His statement generated fury on social media with some persons viewing it to be racist and stereotypical.
He has however issued another statement with the clarification his comments have been taken out of context.
He said: “Given that certain remarks made by me before the Council of Europe earlier today appear to have been misinterpreted and taken out of context, I wish to clarify that, in my speech, my more general message was that everyone in a decision-making position has a responsibility to help improve the situation of people around the world.
“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, which was not directly related to the possibility of playing a FIFA World Cup every two years.”
FIFA’s drive to stage the World Cup every two years is being spearheaded by former Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger.
The proposal has however been rejected by European clubs and players with the view that the change will take away the prestige of the tournament and also compound the already packed calendar of players and football clubs.