FIFA urges World Cup teams to focus on football over politics

Workers building a World Cup stadium in Qatar in 2019. The country has received serious criticism, among other things for its treatment of low-paid migrant workers. Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

FIFA, world football’s Zurich-based governing body, has urged the 32 teams preparing for the most political World Cup in the modern era to focus on the game in Qatar and avoid handing out lessons in morality.

This content was published on November 4, 2022 - 11:12

A letter urging teams to “let football take centre stage” was sent by FIFA’s Swiss president Gianni Infantino and Senegalese secretary general Fatma Samoura ahead of intense media focus on coaches and players when World Cup squads are announced next week.

“Please, let’s now focus on the football!” Infantino and Samoura wrote, asking the 32 football federations to “not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.”

Qatar being picked in 2010 as World Cup host sparked scrutiny on its treatment of low-paid migrant workers needed to build projects costing tens of billions of dollars and its laws criminalising same-sex relationships.

On Wednesday SWI published an in-depth investigation revealing how Qatar orchestrated a large-scale and long-standing intelligence operation against FIFA officials with the help of former CIA operatives. Switzerland was a key scene of operations.

‘Respect for diversity’

Eight European teams have committed to their captains wearing heart-shaped armbands – in breach of FIFA rules – to support an anti-discrimination campaign.

Several coaches and federations have backed calls to create a compensation fund for migrant workers’ families. Denmark’s squad is taking a black team jersey as a sign of “mourning” for those who died in Qatar.

Iran has also faced calls to be removed before it plays England in the second game of the tournament on November 21 in a group that also includes the United States.

Iranian fan groups want the federation suspended for discriminating against women, and Ukraine football officials asked FIFA to remove Iran from the World Cup for human rights violations and supplying the Russian military with weapons.

“At FIFA, we try to respect all opinions and beliefs, without handing out moral lessons to the rest of the world. One of the great strengths of the world is indeed its very diversity, and if inclusion means anything, it means having respect for that diversity,” Infantino and Samoura wrote.

About 1.2 million international visitors are expected in Qatar during the monthlong tournament, which kicks off on November 20. Switzerland’s three group games are against Cameroon on November 24, Brazil on November 28 and Serbia on December 2.

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Almost finished... We need to confirm your email address. To complete the subscription process, please click the link in the email we just sent you.

Discover our weekly must-reads for free!

Sign up to get our top stories straight into your mailbox.

The SBC Privacy Policy provides additional information on how your data is processed.