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Fifa boss suggests biennial World Cups could ‘give hope to Africans so they don’t need to cross the Mediterranean’

While Gianni Infantino spoke at the Council of Europe, 439 refugees on the Geo Barents wait for Europe to let them come ashore, and Poland begins border wall construction

FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s suggested today that hosting the World Cup every two years instead of every four would help prevent refugees from crossing the Mediterranean.

Infantino was speaking at a debate on football governance at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s winter plenary session today.

Towards the end of his speech, he told the Parliament about what he saw as the global benefits of biennial World Cups. Infantino said more the competitions would provide hope to people in poor countries.

“We cannot say to the rest of the world: ‘Give us your money, and if you happen to have a good player… give us the player as well. But you can watch us on TV’,” Infantino said.

“We need to find ways to include the entire world, to give hope to Africans so 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 and we need to give dignity, not by giving charity but by allowing the rest of the world to participate.”

The football equality and inclusion charity Kick It Out’s chief executive Tony Burnett said Fifa, as a multibillion profit-making organisation, already has the funds to invest in disadvantaged people around the world.

“It is therefore completely unacceptable to suggest that a biennial World Cup, predominantly set up to drive further profits for Fifa, could be a solution for migrants who risk their lives, sometimes fleeing war-torn countries, to seek a better life,” Burnett told PA Media today.

“If Fifa has a genuine commitment to tackling inequality, they should be investing time and resource into charitable causes on the ground, rather than disguising what appears to be a profit-making biennial World Cup as the answer to any existing problems.”

Jacob Berkson, an activist with the refugee distress hotline organisation Alarm Phone, told The Civil Fleet today of Europe’s hypocrisy in this situation.

“Just as important as the right to move is the right to stay. The politics of the European Union and their fellow travellers perpetuate the legalised pillage that was colonialism,” Berkson said.

“The ongoing wealth extraction coupled with the brutality of European border is quickly changing the countries of origin into countries of transit — places where you can neither stay nor leave.

“What we cannot and will not accept is any ‘solution’ that sacrifices one right on the altar of the other. By all means enlarge the scope for footballers across Africa, but don’t deny them the chance to play on the pitches of Paris and Berlin.

“As always there is one answer to all this: power to the players. Let people pursue their own happiness how and where they want.”

Meanwhile, the Geo Barents refugee rescue ship is still waiting for the European authorities to allow her to disembark over 400 shipwreck survivors in a safe place.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the charity that runs the ship said on social media today: “While the Italian institutions are ignoring our requests to disembark, for the 439 survivors on the Geo Barents, another night at sea is ahead.

“What else must these people go through before they can find a place of safety?”

Elsewhere, Poland’s far-right government has reportedly begun building a €353 million wall along its border with Belarus.

This new European anti-migrant wall will join the ones between the Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey; Hungary, Serbia and Croatia; Austria, Italy and Slovenia, and the walls between France and the British border around Calais.

Also, the Associated Press revealed yesterday that it has received a leaked document showing that the head of the EU’s anti-arms trafficking mission, Operation Irini, called on the bloc to continue to train the Libyan Coastguards.

Top image shows Fifa president Gianni Infantino

Published by The Civil Fleet

A news blog and podcast focused on the activist-led refugee rescue and support missions across Fortress Europe

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