World Cup in Qatar: FIFA urges teams not to drag football into every political or ideological battle

Soccer’s top official authorities urged the 32 teams preparing for the most political World Cup in recent times to focus on the game and avert handing out lessons on morality in Qatar. FIFA president Gianni Infantino and secretary general Fatma Samoura sent a letter to the teams urging them to ‘let football take center stage’ ahead of the intense media coverage on coaches and players when World Cup squads are announced next week.

“Please, let’s now focus on the football. We know football does not live in a vacuum and we are equally aware that there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all around the world. Do not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists”, the letter by Infantino and Samoura read.

The letter, however, did not respond to a request by England and Wales and six other European nations who had requested that their captains be allowed to wear ‘One Love’ multicoloured wristbands at the World Cup which are a response to concerns about Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

“At FIFA, we try to respect all opinions and beliefs, without handing out moral lessons to the rest of the world. One of the great strengths of the world is indeed its very diversity, and if inclusion means anything, it means having respect for that diversity. No one people or culture or nation is ‘better’ than any other”, the letter read.

“This principle is the very foundation stone of mutual respect and non-discrimination. And this is also one of the core values of football. So, please let’s all remember that and let football take centre stage”, it added. Infantino meanwhile also said that everybody would be welcome in Qatar regardless of origin, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or nationality.

Qatar’s selection as World Cup host in 2010 sparked criticism for its treatment of low-wage migrant workers needed to build projects worth tens of billions of dollars, as well as its laws criminalizing same-sex relationships. Eight European teams have agreed to have their captains wear heart-shaped armbands to support an anti-discrimination campaign, in violation of FIFA rules.

Several coaches and federations meanwhile have supported calls to establish a compensation fund for the families of migrant workers. Denmark’s team this time is wearing a black jersey as a sign of ‘mourning’ for those who died in Qatar. Iran has also faced calls to be removed from the World Cup before its match against England on Nov 21 in a group that also includes the United States.

Iranian fan groups want the federation to be suspended for discriminating against women, and Ukrainian soccer officials have asked FIFA to kick Iran out of the World Cup for human rights violations and supplying weapons to the Russian military. About 1.2 million international visitors are expected in Qatar during the Nov 20- Dec 18 tournament.

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