GENEVA (AP) — FIFA President Gianni Infantino on Tuesday urged world leaders to call for a ceasefire in Russia’s war against Ukraine at the World Cup which begins this week.
Just days after World Cup teams were told to avoid political and human rights issues Swirling around host country Qatar and focusing solely on football, Infantino appeared to stray from his own advice during a trip from the Persian Gulf to Indonesia for the Group of 20 meeting.
The World Cup which begins on Sunday could be “that positive trigger”, Infantino said, to seek peace after nearly nine months of what FIFA called a “conflict in Russia and Ukraine”.
“We are not naive to believe that football can solve the world’s problems,” the FIFA president told delegates from the world’s political heavyweights.
“So my plea, to all of you, is to think about a temporary ceasefire, for a month, for the duration of the FIFA World Cup, or at least the establishment of some humanitarian corridors, or anything that could lead to the resumption of dialogue as a first step towards peace,” Infantino said.
The proposal echoed the goals of the Olympic Truce – a modern, United Nations-backed renewal of the tradition of stopping fighting and granting safe passage to the games of ancient Greece.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, four days after the closing ceremony of the Beijing Winter Games.
Infantino, who is a member of the International Olympic Committee, did not directly condemn Russia or refer to President Vladimir Putin. Infantino and Putin worked closely together before and during Russia’s hosting of the 2018 World Cup, which the FIFA president at the time praised for showing a welcoming new side to the country.
It was unclear whether a ceasefire would be welcomed by the Ukrainian people and their President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who addressed the G-20 summit via video link. He called for a complete withdrawal of Russian troops and the return of Ukrainian control of his territory
“Ukraine should not be offered to make compromises with its conscience, sovereignty, territory and independence,” Zelenskyy said. “And if Russia says it supposedly wants to end this war, let it prove it with action.”
With the support of Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian Football Federation has joined forces with Spain and Portugal in its bid to jointly host the 2030 World Cup with Spain and Portugal. A host for this tournament will be chosen in 2024.
Infantino added that “we know that our main objective as a sports organization is and should be sport”.
“But because football unites the world, this FIFA World Cup, with five billion people watching it, can be the trigger for a positive gesture, a sign or a message of hope.” , Infantino said.
The most political World Cup of the modern era comes at a time of unrest on the streets of Iran following the death in September of a 22-year-old woman previously detained by the country’s vice squad.
Iran begin their World Cup campaign on Monday against England – and will later face the United States in Group B – and some players have openly supported the home protests.
“Everyone has the right to express themselves. The team’s Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz told a press conference on Tuesday, adding that it was not a distraction.
“It is out of the question to think that the Iranian national team is suffering from problems like this. They want to write history,” Queiroz said.
Iran have never made it past the group stage of a World Cup.
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports