ZURICH (AP) – Football’s top officials have urged the 32 teams preparing for the most political World Cup in modern times to focus on the game in Qatar and avoid lessons in morality.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Secretary General Fatma Samoura sent a letter urging teams to “put football first” ahead of the media’s intense focus on coaches and players when the World Cup squads are announced next week are given.
“Now please let’s focus on football!” Infantino and Samoura wrote, calling on the 32 football associations “not to allow football to be drawn into every existing ideological or political struggle”.
Qatar, selected to host the 2010 World Cup, sparked a scrutiny of its treatment of low-paid migrant workers needed to build projects costing tens of billions of dollars and its laws criminalizing same-sex relationships.
Eight European teams have committed their captains to wearing heart-shaped armbands – contrary to FIFA rules – to support an anti-discrimination campaign.
Several coaches and associations have backed calls to set up a compensation fund for migrant workers’ families. Denmark’s squad accept a black team jersey as a sign of ‘mourning’ for those who died in Qatar.
Iran have also been urged to be removed before playing England in the second game of the World Cup on November 21 in a group that also includes the United States.
Iranian supporters’ groups want the federation suspended over discrimination against women, and Ukrainian football officials have called on FIFA to ban Iran from the World Cup over human rights abuses and supplying arms to the Russian military.
“We know that football does not live in a vacuum, and we are also aware that there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature around the world,” wrote FIFA leaders in their letter on Thursday, which did not address a specific issue or was named.
“At FIFA we try to respect all opinions and beliefs without giving moral lessons to the rest of the world. Indeed, one of the great strengths of the world is its diversity, and if inclusion means anything, it means respecting that diversity.
Infantino and Samoura added: “No people, culture or nation is ‘better’ than the others. This principle is the real cornerstone of mutual respect and non-discrimination. And that’s also one of the core values of football.
They reiterated long-standing promises made by Qatar, including its emir, at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September that all visitors to Qatar will be welcome “regardless of race, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality. ”
Around 1.2 million international visitors are expected in Qatar from November 20th to December 12th. 18 tournament.
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