FIFA have written to World Cup teams urging them to focus on the tournament in Qatar and not be part of lecturing on morality and dragging football “into every ideological or political battle that exists”.
Sky News has exclusively seen the full letter from FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, and the governing body’s secretary general, Fatma Samoura, that has been sent amid growing pressure on players to be activists around the tournament.
It has been a World Cup build-up dogged by concerns about the suffering of low-paid migrant workers to build the infrastructure in the tiny Gulf nation and discriminatory laws that criminalise same-sex relations.
“Please, let’s now focus on the football!” Infantino and Samoura wrote to the 32 football nations contesting the World Cup.
“We know football does not live in a vacuum and we are equally aware that there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all around the world.
“But please do not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.”
The letter does not address the request by England and Wales and six other European nations for their captains to wear “One Love” multicoloured armbands at the World Cup which are a response to concerns about Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Both British nations have already said they would defy any ban by FIFA.
Infantino wrote: “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. No one people or culture or nation is ‘better’ than any other.
“This principle is the very foundation stone of mutual respect and non-discrimination. And this is also one of the core values of football. So, please let’s all remember that and let football take centre stage.”
Infantino says everyone will be welcome in Qatar “regardless of origin, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality”.
The letter was sent to the nations competing in the men’s football showpiece with less than three weeks until the tournament begins in Qatar.
Infantino – and his leadership team – was not in place at FIFA when a tainted group of executive committee members voted in 2010 to award the World Cup to Qatar.
The last English team to play in Qatar was Liverpool at the Club World Cup in 2019. And Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told Sky News this week it is “not fair” to expect political statements from players around the World Cup.
The German said: “They go there to play football. It’s not about this generation’s players to say now that ‘we don’t go, or we don’t do that’.
“The decision [to hold the tournament in Qatar] was made by other people, and if you want to criticise anybody, criticise the people who made the decision.”