FIFA have written to each of the nations competing in the World Cup later this month urging them to ‘focus on football’ instead of debating the morality of the competition.
The organisation’s decision to hand the tournament to Qatar has been widely criticised in recent years as a result of Qatar’s human rights issues, with concerns over the criminalisation of same-sex relations and the exploitation of migrant workers central to the debate.
Players and teams from across the globe have faced pressure to stand up and protect the tournament – something Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admitted is ‘not fair to expect’ – and FIFA have now urged each of the 32 nations to keep their focus on football.
In a letter seen by Sky News, president Gianni Infantino and secretary general Fatma Samoura wrote: “Please, let’s now focus on the football!”
“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,” the letter added.
“But please do not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.”
The letter fails to mention a request from eight nations, including England and Wales, to wear the ‘One Love’ armband in support of the LGBTQ+ community, and FIFA instead chose to warn countries against activism.
England and Wales have already pledged to ignore any warnings by FIFA when it comes to wearing the armband.
“At FIFA, we try to respect all opinions and beliefs, without handing out moral lessons to the rest of the world,” Infantino wrote.
“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.”