Barely a month into football’s current state of inertia and the head of FIFA has arrived with a basketful of meaningless platitudes to make us all feel better.
‘Health must come first,’ said president Gianni Infantino on Friday. ‘No match, no competition, no league is worth risking a single human life.’
He is right. Football should not resume until it’s safe to play again. It’s just a shame that Infantino lacks the credibility to speak on matters like this.
Gianni Infantino’s talk about putting health before football is cheap after Qatar migrant crisis
Thirty four migrant workers assigned to building projects around 2022 World Cup have died
Workers have had to live in terrible conditions and work up to 77 hours a week for a pitiful wage
At the last count, 34 migrant workers assigned to building projects around the 2022 Qatar World Cup have died. The chances are there will be more.
A report from Amnesty International last year said that many workers had gone unpaid for months on end. Another human rights group, Sherpa, have claimed that some work as many as 77 hours a week for a fraction of what passes for an average salary in Qatar.
FIFA are not often heard talking about this, though. Above all, Infantino and his crew just want that particular show to roll on. Qatar 2022 will not have the 48 teams in it that Infantino wanted.
It will stick with 32, which is still at least eight too many. But the president will have got over that by the time he checks into his five-star hotel in Doha three Decembers from now.
Qatar’s World Cup stadiums will be impressive but have come at a cost to those who built them
Infantino also said at the end of last week that he hopes FIFA can use some of their vast financial reserves to help football move through the coronavirus crisis. Doubtless, that will happen. It must happen. FIFA must lead.
But what we also know is that FIFA will continue to spend much of their own and their sponsors’ cash on themselves.
A visit to the official FIFA hotel in Moscow during the last World Cup was enlightening. I was there for an hour or so. There was time for a club sandwich at least. Just not enough room on my credit card.
It will be the same in Qatar, where it is thought that some visiting supporters will be forced to sleep in tents or on cruise ships anchored off the Gulf coast. We should not be surprised. As usual, it will not be football’s World Cup. It will be FIFA’s World Cup and there is a difference.
The 2022 World Cup will be FIFA’s tournament and not one created for the good of supporters
Nobody knows what the world will look and feel like once this current pandemic has blown through. We are told it will be smaller. Our horizons in terms of finance, travel and emotional freedom may well have shrunk. We will be told to adjust to what they call a new normal. It would be nice if those at the top of the sport took on board a little of this message, too.
If any organisation in the game…