Sunday 21 May 2023, 16:00

FIFA President thanks global health workers at World Health Assembly

  • Gianni Infantino was invited to speak at the 76th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland

  • Speech emphasised key principles of #FootballUnitestheWorld campaign

  • FIFA President was speaking on 119th anniversary of FIFA’s founding

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has addressed delegates at the opening of the 76th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, thanking them for their work in preserving public health and endorsing the impact that football has on bringing happiness and well-being to society. Mr Infantino joined several world leaders in speaking on the opening day of the Assembly, including Alain Berset, President of the Swiss Confederation, Felipe Jacinto Nyusi President of the Republic of Mozambique and former Prime Minster of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern. Several other leaders delivered speeches in video at the start of the Assembly, which is attended by 194 Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO), Observers, UN entities and non-state actors (NSA). The intervention – the first from a FIFA President to the World Health Assembly - congratulated the WHO on its’ landmark 75th anniversary on the day that world football’s governing body was itself celebrating 119 years to the day since being founded in Paris, France.

“I am here because football, like all sports, is good for physical and mental health, but that’s not the only reason,” Mr Infantino told the assembled delegates, also thanking health workers from all over the world for their vital daily work, before, during and since the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have many similarities with the World Health Organization. Both have more members than the United Nations, which shows how important health and also football is. We are both based in beautiful Switzerland, but we have a global mandate, and we want to be present all over the world. And we both care about people. We both care about people being happy and enjoying their life and as we have seen, football unites the world.”

FIFA and WHO signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2019 and the two organisations partnered on a range of awareness campaigns following the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. As well as hailing the success of that alliance by joining forces to maximise the positive impact on lives all over the world, the FIFA President reinforced the importance of happiness on health, that can so often be delivered through football. “Football is maybe the most important of the least important things,” President Infantino concluded. “We know that when a person is healthy, a person can have many wishes, for example, to win the Men’s or the Women’s [FIFA] World Cup. But when a person is not in good health, that person has only one wish: to be healthy again and this explains your importance in whatever you do every day of your life.”