The president of world football’s governing body (FIFA) has called for a month-Fri ceasefire in Ukraine to celebrate the World Cup, saying sport can unite people.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said at the G20 meeting that the World Cup, which opens in Qatar on September 20, could act as a positive catalyst during Russia’s nearly nine-month invasion of Ukraine.
“My appeal to all leaders is to consider a temporary ceasefire for a month during the World Cup,” he told leaders at the G20 meeting.
Infantino said that if a full cease-fire is not possible, some steps could be taken to implement humanitarian measures or lead to dialogue.
Comparing the game of soccer to something unifying, he pointed out that Russia hosted the 2018 World Cup, while Spain hosted the 2030 World Cup. Ukraine has submitted a bid to co-host with Portugal.
“We are not naive enough to believe that football can solve the world’s problems,” Infantino said.
But he said the World Cup offers a unique avenue, with an estimated five billion people — more than half the world’s population — expected to watch it on television.
“Let us take this opportunity to do everything in our power to end all conflicts,” the FIFA president said.
Days after President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, FIFA suspended the Russian soccer team from competing in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. FIFA kicked Russia’s national football team out of the World Cup qualifiers after some countries refused to play against Russia.
Qatar has been widely criticized for its human rights record, but organizers said 2.9 million of the 3.1 million tickets had been sold. Organizers say Qatar will welcome more than a million visitors during the 29-day World Cup, which begins on November 20.
However, there are at least 25,000 empty rooms between November 24 and 28, when the World Cup is expected to be the most crowded, according to Omar al-Bajabar, director of planning and placement for the organizing committee.