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FIFA President Gianni Infantino says biennial World Cup would give African migrants 'hope that they don't have to cross the Mediterranean'

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 2022-01-27

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Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup
  • FIFA President Gianni Infantino claimed that a biennial world cup could save migrants.
  • Infantino made the odd argument while promoting the new idea to the Council of Europe.
  • The soccer world is conflicted about the idea, with critics saying it is a FIFA cash grab.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said that a biennial World Cup would offer more opportunities to players worldwide, and could deter migrants from crossing the Mediterranean Sea to migrate to Europe.

Speaking to the Council of Europe, Infantino argued that the World Cup should be held every two years, instead of every four years, which is the current schedule and has been since 1950.

"We need to find ways to include the entire world," Infantino said. "To give hope to Africans so that they don't need to cross the Mediterranean to find maybe a better life, but more probably death in the sea."

According to the UN International Organization for Migration, over 1,100 migrants died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2021.

Throughout his speech, Infantino said that the best players and the majority of resources for world soccer were based in Europe and that the biennial World Cup would give players more opportunities globally, and more countries the opportunity to host.

Infantino's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reuters reported that Infantino later said his comments on Wednesday were, "misinterpreted," and that he was making a general point about access to opportunities. The $4.4 billion in revenue that the tournament change would generate could help close the wealth gap in the soccer world, he claimed.

In August, Infantino said, "You don't need to be an Einstein, to know that if you have two World Cups in four years you will double the revenues," according to the Associated Press.

The idea of holding the World Cup every two years is supported by former players and coaches in the soccer world like former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who is leading a group of soccer professionals promoting the idea globally. Certain soccer confederations like CONMEBOL in South America, and individual national federations like France's and Saudi Arabia's have co-signed the idea.

However, major players are already expressing uncertainty over the idea.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe and Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski are among a chorus of players speaking out against the idea, arguing that it would be too physically demanding, and will lessen the allure and stakes of a less frequent tournament.

"I agree with Robert, we already play 60 games a year and there are already a lot of competitions. We are happy to play, but when it's too much, it is too much. If you want to have quality, you have to allow the players to rest," Mbappe said in December, according to ESPN. "We have to think about the quality and respect the health of the players."

Because the idea solely applies to the men's game, some have also argued that the potentially congested tournament schedule could take eyes away from the women's world cup.

FIFA is already facing international scrutiny due to its history of corruption and the choice to stand by the 2022 World Cup host Qatar amid the abuse and death of migrant workers , documented in country-specific data and by Human Rights Watch.

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