Gianni Infantino’s letter about the World Cup is lamentable, irrational and dumbfoundingly stupid

So here we are, almost two weeks before the World Cup and FIFA president Gianni Infantino and general secretary Fatma Samoura sent their call to the clubs, arriving at the sides of the football associations competing in the tournament in Qatar.

The email arrived at around 7pm (UK time) on Thursday night and within three hours it was leaked and found its way onto the Sky News website.

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“Please, now let’s focus on football!” Infantino and Samoura pleaded.

The pair continued: “We know that football does not live in a vacuum and we are equally aware that there are many challenges and political difficulties around the world.

“But please don’t let the ball get dragged into every point of view or political battle there is.”

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So, the message was clear. Heads down, know your place, be quiet and stick to your feet.

For those unfortunate enough to follow Infantino for a living, the new frontiers of football’s transformative power can be surprising.

It is a contrast, for example, to a moment earlier this year of what could be described as Peak Infantino. The stage was Davos, the Swiss resort, and the World Economic Forum in May. For the uninitiated, Davos is a kind of hellscape designed for Infantino, where the world’s richest and most fortunate people wield their power to cleanse the world of all evil.

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FIFA’s website followed Infantino’s appearance with a report titled “FIFA President: Soccer can change the world.”


Infantino and Putin at the World Cup Final (Photo: KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

Infantino said: “(Nelson) Mandela said that sport can change the world, it can inspire, it unites, and he was right. “Football, as the most popular sport in the world, has a different reach.”

Just over five months and Infantino’s zeal for reform seems to have left him behind. Thursday night’s letter did not specifically mention any of the issues of this year’s World Cup in Qatar, especially the treatment of migrant workers who build stadiums, homosexuality laws that threaten the safety of LGBT + Qataris and visitors, as. and calls for FIFA to take action against Iran, whose drones are supporting Russia in bombing Ukrainian soil, not to mention the ongoing protests in the country over women’s rights.

But this letter seemed to suggest that it would be unwise for unions to focus on such topics.

The letter continued: “At FIFA, we try to respect all opinions and beliefs without teaching the whole world about morality.

“One of the world’s greatest strengths is its diversity, and if inclusion means anything, it means respecting that diversity. No people or culture or nation is ‘better’ than any other.

“This principle is the basis of mutual respect and non-discrimination. And this is one of the values ​​of football. So, please let us all remember that and let football take center stage. “

It might be helpful, for now, to remind Infantino how the world works. When he urges that football be “pulled from every idea”, perhaps he should be told that homosexuality is not an idea. It is the way a person is born; because inside of us, that is what we are, that is what I am. If we accept human sexuality as natural, to be a matter of nature rather than nurture, then we understand that criticizing or criminalizing a person because of their gender seems illogical.

Infantino’s words, however, seem to argue that the “inclusion” of honoring homosexuality has the same value as the “inclusion” of honoring the crime of homosexuality.

This argument seems to imply that true tolerance means tolerance of violence and dangerous intolerance. It means that the worldview of two loving women, married and raising children together, equal value, for example, Salah Al-Yafei. The man describes himself as an “educational consultant” at the Qatari academy, which houses Qatar’s most famous sportsmen. He has 60,000 Instagram followers and a recent video said: “When we are faced with the open promotion of homosexuality, disapproval of the way you talk and the way you behave has a big impact on children, as it conveys the message to them that this is deviant and inappropriate. ‘Accept it.'” This is the life of shame reserved for gay people in Qatar, where homosexual discourse treats the natural human condition as an illness to be suppressed or, at worst, cured.

Two weeks out from this tournament, Infantino’s words have dropped like a cold bucket of illness to those who believe that broadcasters, media, organizations and journalists should have the freedom to scrutinize the organizers of this most popular sports tournament in the world. Therefore, it’s not only a sad topic but also incredibly stupid as a strategy, alienating those who FIFA may wish to keep on the sidelines for the next few weeks.


The FA’s One Love logo, which does not call for any discrimination (Photo: Giuseppe Cottini/Getty Images)

However the truth is that the permissive Qataris, eager to protect their relations, often do more harm to the government than good. Take, for example, British foreign secretary James Cleverly, who recently told a radio station that British LGBT+ people traveling to Doha should “repent and stop” visiting during the World Cup. It is hard to resist the conclusion that Cleverly’s modest apology is the result of British business closely tied to Qatar, whether it is the £1.5billion ($1.7bn) British contract linked to the tournament, or British RAF aircraft. to protect the skies, or the £6billion Typhoon jets Britain has sold to Qatar in recent years. In that context, the plight of LGBT+ people in Qatar seems like an afterthought.

And the truth is that it is often a footnote in the game itself. We must remember, for example, that when Qatar was awarded this competition in 2010, the Premier League was still several years away from its annual Rainbow Laces campaign, which was only launched after the competition was pulled kicking and screaming from it by public announcement. from bookies Paddy Power. In recent years, as the World Cup was approaching, most of the country’s federations have done nothing to raise concerns about the situation of LGBT + Qataris and traveling fans. The English Football Association, for example, signed a Memorandum of Understanding both with the Qatar FA and the Orwellian High Committee called the High Committee on Transfer and Legacy in 2018. The then chairman Greg Clarke announced these commitments while putting in front of “Football” in English. For All” sign — following a lack of consultation with English LGBT+ football supporters. Those memoranda remain to this day.

Since then, Qatari authorities have provided very little on record over the years to ensure LGBT+ citizens or visitors. They often say vague phrases like “everyone is welcome” but they often close the message by insisting that visitors must respect Qatari culture, leaving people like me, going to the tournament, unsure of the government’s meaningful position on key issues. What if, for example, I have to write about LGBT+ issues while I’m on the ground in Doha next month? In the absence of Qatar’s clarity, we are left in the awkward position of the English FA’s football managers speaking on behalf of the country’s law enforcement agency.

Thus, we heard from Mark Bullingham, the chief executive of the English FA, who announced the news in late September that LGBT + couples holding hands in Qatar will not be prosecuted. “They gave us all the right answers to anything we said,” Bullingham said, appearing to praise the tournament’s hosts.

Going back to the constraints of this tournament, isn’t it really disturbing that the football association tells us how a country intends to use its punishment when that country has a hard time defining such matters on its own? So we have the absurdity of this confirmation arriving in September, eight weeks before the tournament, as if the English people have waited 12 years since Qatar won the prestigious FA bid to start booking and booking tickets two months before the World Cup starts.

And if Bullingham is so confident of the host’s acceptance, why is the English (and other European nations) launching a statement in support of LGBT+ people at the tournament that only includes a belt with the slogan “One Love”? This represents a color scheme that does not appear to be black which is often seen as a symbol of the LGBT+ community. If the hosts are generous, engaged and open to discussion, why not mention “gay rights” or call out Qatar’s anti-gay laws? Why do these freedom fighters not clearly recognize the people they claim to represent?

Perhaps the answer to the indifference came in the newspaper I on Thursday, where a gay man in Qatar revealed that he was attracted to a hotel room through a dating app and found Qatari officials waiting to attack him upon his arrival. They raped her, the report says, before she was arrested.

Anyway, as Gianni says, back to football everyone.

(Top photo: Stephen McCarthy – FIFA / FIFA via Getty Images)



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