Thursday 16 May 2024, 13:40

We must use football’s power to bring people together, FIFA President tells AFC Congress

  • Gianni Infantino addressed the 34th Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Congress

  • FIFA and the AFC are working together for future generations

  • The AFC President reiterated Asia’s support for Mr Infantino

Gianni Infantino has emphasised football's power to bring people together during his address to the 34th Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Congress in Bangkok, Thailand. The FIFA President, who was speaking on the eve of the 74th FIFA Congress in the same city, also congratulated AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa for the AFC’s success in competing at and hosting major international events. Asia has recently become a centre of the football world with the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup India 2022™ and the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, where, for the first time, three Asian teams reached the knockout stage. Those were followed by the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™, co-hosted by Australia, the FIFA U-17 World Cup Indonesia 2023™, the FIFA Club World Cup Saudia Arabia 2023™ and the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup UAE 2024 Dubai™. Central Asia will host its first FIFA event in September and October with the FIFA Futsal World Cup Uzbekistan 2024™ while Qatar will stage the next five editions of the FIFA U-17 World Cup™, starting from 2025.

Mr Infantino said that football could only do very little in the face of the terrible suffering that is going on in the world today, making it all the more important for everyone to unite. “We have to try and use the power of football to bring people together, to bring communities together, to concentrate and focus on what we share, rather than what divides us," he said. The FIFA President added that FIFA and the AFC were working together for future generations. “We have to invest in youth programmes, in girls’ programmes, in boys’ programmes, and we have to invest in senior competitions by increasing the number of participants, by getting more of the world to participate and more of the world to know each other,” he said.

One of FIFA’s strategic objectives is to provide more playing opportunities for national teams and club sides and, with this in mind, the inaugural FIFA Series took place in March to give national teams a chance to face opposition from other parts of the world. Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka each hosted a series of international friendlies while Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Mongolia and Sri Lanka all participated. Four Asian teams will take part in the new FIFA Club World Cup™ in 2025 while the FIFA Women’s Club World Cup™, foreseen to take place for the first time in 2026, will provide new opportunities for women’s club sides including those from Asia.

Further playing opportunities will be offered for men’s national teams by the FIFA Arab Cup, played every four years with the next edition in 2025. Shaikh Salman thanked Gianni Infantino for his presence: “Mr President, Asia is always with you, has always been a big supporter of FIFA and your presidency and we will always follow your advice.”

FIFA President Gianni Infantino during the AFC Ordinary Congress