Thursday 11 April 2024, 21:15

FIFA President tells CONMEBOL Ordinary Congress "protecting football's values" is crucial

  • "Magic" of football to "bring people together" must be safeguarded, Gianni Infantino tells delegates in Asuncion, Paraguay

  • FIFA President receives The South American Football Order of Merit, participates in event on unique centenary celebration

  • Calls for joint action to end racism and violence in football ahead of next month's FIFA Congress

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has called on football's administrators to "take care of and protect" the universal and unifying emotions of the game as the unique centenary celebration was acknowledged during the 78th CONMEBOL Ordinary Congress in Paraguay. The FIFA World Cup 2030™ will mark 100 years since the first tournament in Uruguay. The vast majority of games will be split across the three co-host nations, Morocco, Portugal and Spain, but Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay will stage a match each to honour South America's role at the competition's birth, subject to the completion of a successful bidding process conducted by FIFA and a decision by the FIFA Congress.

In the Paraguayan capital, Asuncion, Mr Infantino participated in a ceremony highlighting the fact the unique centenary celebration is set to come to the continent and then told the Congress delegates, including the President of Paraguay, Santiago Peña, and the President of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle Pou, heads of FIFA's Member Associations in South America and FIFA Legends, that football's qualities must be cherished and safeguarded.

"It will be something unique, it will be the Centenary [FIFA] World Cup,” the FIFA President said. “It will be the [FIFA] World Cup that will truly unite the world. We always say that football has the magic, the strength to bring people together in every corner of the world with the same emotion. The magic that, if you give a football to a young girl, or to a young boy, their faces immediately light up.

"It's something special, and it's something that I think, we, as executives, have to take care of and protect, by protecting football's values,” he added. “The values that we all have and the values we all grew up with. All playing football, organising football, following games as fans. These values that are the same in Oceania, in North America, in Africa, in South America, in Asia or in Europe. And for this reason, when we started to talk about 2030, it was clear for me that we had to think about something special."

Mr Infantino praised the "disruptive thinking' of the FIFA Council members who voted in favour of the unprecedented solution to celebrate a century of the FIFA World Cup. The FIFA President's own contribution to the beautiful game was also acknowledged as he had what he called the "incredible honour" of receiving the Orden del Mérito del Fútbol Sudamericano (The South American Football Order of Merit).

He also noted the central place South America has enjoyed on the global stage in recent years, from Argentina's FIFA World Cup™ win in 2022 to Uruguay lifting the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023™ and, most recently, Brazil claiming the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2024™. He also highlighted how other FIFA tournaments would be coming to the region, notably the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup™ in Colombia in September, and the FIFA U-20 World Cup™ - held in Argentina last year - that will be staged in Chile in 2025.

"Events that will contribute, honestly, to bringing young people together – boys and girls – in a sport that has a unique, incredible, history and that has an incredible future, and I am even more convinced now. Even more because, it brings us together, and it is what we need more of, to be honest, in these times," said the FIFA President. "In this era of aggression on a global scale with conflicts in various places, we need something to unite people. And there is nothing better to unite people than football.” Mr Infantino also addressed the issue of racism in football, which will be a central theme of the upcoming 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok, Thailand, on 17 May 2024. He has already called on world football's six confederations to help draw up the comprehensive strategy to be presented to the FIFA Congress.

"We have to be determined in this, just as we have to be determined in the fight against violence, violence that exists in the world, that exists in football," added the FIFA President. "And there we also have to act together with governments, with the authorities, with the teams, with the players, all together, because going to a football match has to be a party. It has to be about joy, it is also a question of educating our young people. It is a question of civil responsibility that we all have.“