Infantino: Players must not protest on the pitch

DOHA, Qatar — FIFA President Gianni Infantino said players should “respect football” and not protest on the pitch because fans want to forget their troubles during the game.

Various human rights groups have expressed concern about the treatment of migrant workers and LGBTQ+ people in Qatar, leading participating teams to face increased pressure to use their voices to highlight issues of discrimination and harassment.

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The seven countries competing in Qatar committed to don the ‘OneLove’ armband but backed out at the last minute after FIFA threatened the captain with an on-pitch sanction including a yellow card at kickoff.

Germany’s players covered their mouths during a team photo ahead of their group stage match against Japan, and England took a knee before all five of their matches, although it was an anti-discrimination gesture not specifically introduced in light of the issues in Qatar.

Speaking at the World Cup closing press conference on Friday, Infantino said: “As FIFA we have to take care of everyone. We are a global organisation, we must not discriminate against anyone based on any law, any regime, any values ​​and feelings. .” they have.

“This is not about banning or not banning. It’s about respecting the rules; we have rules that say on the field of play, you play football, and that’s what we do.

“Everyone is free to express his views, opinions, beliefs, the way he believes, as long as it is done in an honorable way.

“When it comes to the field, to the field of play, you have to respect football, you have to respect the field of play, and these rules exist for this reason. These are nothing new; they exist for this reason. to respect and protect 211 football teams, not 211 heads of state, regimes, or what have you.

“These are 211 football teams and their fans who want to come and enjoy football, and this is what we are here for, and frankly, I believe that we stand for values, we stand for human rights, we stand for the rights of all people. in FIFA, in the World Cup.

“But I also believe that the fans that come to the stadiums — 80,000, 70,000, 90,000 and billions of fans who watch the World Cup on TV, maybe — we have to think about it — and I say this frankly to everyone: everyone has their own problem.

“They just want to spend 90 minutes or now 100 minutes or 105 minutes or whatever without having to think about anything other than just having a bit of fun and excitement or at least some emotion.

“That’s what we have to do. We have to give all these people a time in their life where they can forget their own problems and enjoy football.

“Between and after competitions, during competitions outside of matches on the field of play, everyone can express his views and opinions as he wishes. But let’s give this moment of joy to those who want to enjoy the game.”

Infantino hailed the staging of the Qatar event as “the best World Cup ever” – as he declared it four years ago in Russia.

“The World Cup has been a tremendous success on all fronts,” added Infantino. “The main thing is the fans, the behavior, the good atmosphere, bringing people together. The meeting of the fans with the Arab world, that is very important for the future of all of us.”

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