Infantino’s comments came in an address to the Council of Europe.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s comments about African migrants have been described as “completely unacceptable” by Kick It Out chief executive Tony Burnett.
Infantino controversially referenced migrants risking drowning in the Mediterranean during a speech to the Council of Europe on Wednesday, as he spoke about the global benefits of FIFA plans to reform the international calendar which include a proposal for biennial men’s and women’s World Cups.
He said: “We need 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.”
Burnett condemned the comments and said in a statement issued to the PA news agency: “FIFA is a multi-billion profit-making organisation. They already have the funds to invest in creating and inspiring opportunity for 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.”
The 2022 World Cup will be held in a country that unfairly persecutes LGBTQ+ people with the threat of imprisonment or even the death penalty.
So as we congratulate the @England team on qualification, we also hope for an inclusive legacy for this tournament and beyond ??
— Kick It Out (@kickitout) November 15, 2021
He added: “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.”
In a further interview with PA, Burnett described Infantino’s remarks as “clumsy” and “uneducated”.
“The notion that you can use a World Cup tournament to stop people who are fleeing persecution and often war is just bizarre and just shows a complete lack of knowledge of the subject matter he is talking about,” Burnett said.
Gianni Infantino comes under fire for comments made.
Infantino’s remarks come just a day after Middlesex cricket chair Mike O’Farrell apologised over comments he made to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee that appeared to make generalisations about people from the Afro-Caribbean and South Asian communities.
Burnett said: “I’m not going to judge his intent, because I don’t know the guy and I don’t know what his intent was.
“I think it shows a glaring lack of awareness from leaders in sports across the piece actually, not just Infantino today, but we saw similar comments on a different scale yesterday in cricket.
“I think our global leaders, the leaders in our sports industries need to step up and need to educate themselves on global issues.”
Infantino later claimed his comments has been misinterpreted and sought to clarify them.
In a statement, 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.”
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