Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter believes Iran should be kicked out of the upcoming World Cup in Qatar, a Swiss newspaper and online news site said on Friday.
The comments come amid nationwide protests that have gripped Iran for weeks, following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of vice police.
The Swiss outlet “Blick” broadcast a video of the former FIFA president on Thursday during a conference at the headquarters of its publisher.
Blatter was asked by a journalist: “If you were still president of FIFA today, would you let Iran – which is currently killing young women in the streets, which is sending weapons to Russia to attack Ukraine – take part in the World Cup?
“No,” Blatter replied, adding that he believed current FIFA President Gianni Infantino lacked the courage to take a clear stance on Iran.
“He is already struggling to set up a fund with the Qataris – for all the workers who died building the infrastructure.
“I think it should be done by someone from FIFA who has the guts. But Infantino doesn’t even have the guts to give the journalists an answer.
FIFA did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment on Blatter’s suggestion that Iran should be kicked out of the 2022 World Cup and his views on Infantino.
Blatter’s comments come weeks after a law firm sent a letter to FIFA on behalf of a group of former and current Iranian sports figures urging the football governing body to suspend the Iranian Football Federation (FFIRI) and ban him from participating in this year’s World Cup in Qatar. .
The letter states that the actions of the Iranian Football Federation violate FIFA statutes and regulations.
“Iran’s brutality and belligerence towards its own people has reached a tipping point, demanding an unequivocal and firm dissociation from the world of football and sport,” said a press release issued alongside the letter.
Other Iranian athletes joined the protests.
After scoring a goal in the Emirates Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup final, Saeed Piramoon mimicked her haircut – a move signaling her support for nationwide protests in the country calling for more freedoms for women – a an act which the Iranian football authorities have pledged to deal with.
Meanwhile, footballer Sardar Azmoun is at risk of missing out on his World Cup selection after criticizing the government.
“Worth sacrificing for a lock of Iranian women’s hair,” Azmoun wrote in an Instagram story. “Shame on you who kill people so easily. Long live Iranian women.
Blatter’s comments aren’t the only criticism the 86-year-old has had of the organization he was in charge of.
Earlier this week he told Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger that “Qatar is a mistake”, adding that “the choice was wrong”.
“It is too small a country. Football and the World Cup are too big for that,” Blatter said of Qatar, the first country in the Middle East to host the tournament.
“Since then, social considerations and human rights have been taken into account,” he added.
The World Cup begins on November 20 and Iran begin their campaign against England on November 21.