Wednesday 28 September 2022, 05:45

WTO Director-General praises football's ability to connect people and create solidarity

  • Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala highlights football's capacity in creating global solidarity

  • WTO wants to partner with football to help transform lives of people in developing countries

  • Gianni Infantino highlights huge potential outside Europe for football to develop further

The Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has praised football's ability to bring people together during a question-and-answer session on the opening day of the WTO Public Forum alongside the FIFA President Gianni Infantino. The encounter, at the WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, took place after FIFA and the WTO signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) where they agreed to look at ways of using football to promote economic inclusion, particularly in developing countries.

“At a time where global solidarity is fragile and there is a lot of tension, to find something that brings global solidarity, that can unify us across colour, across race, across every divide, regions – it’s pretty amazing,” the WTO Director-General said. “Everybody gets excited at football. It’s the ability to build this solidarity that is so fascinating to me.” She said that the WTO had to “think outside the box” in the current economic and political climate and, after a previous meeting with the FIFA President, she began to think about ways in which football's power could be harnessed to bring benefits and opportunities to WTO members. “It is also about trade. Football is a big mover in terms of all kinds of goods and services, so it was about how we can harness the trade part of it? So, we began to talk about this and the desire of FIFA to help transform the lives of people in developing do we do things that the create more jobs add value to products?” she said.

The FIFA President stressed that there are significant revenues being generated through professional football activities in Europe which accounts for 70 per cent of that sector globally, meaning that there remains untapped resources elsewhere. “(This) means there is a huge, huge potential in the rest of the world to still develop, to give every talent everywhere in the world a real chance, to bring a lot of hope and a lot of opportunities to many people around the world,” Gianni Infantino said. He added that, uniquely among football organisations, FIFA's revenues were used to help develop football around the world.

CNBC Reporter and Anchor Julianna Tatelbaum and FIFA President Gianni Infantino listen to World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speak

“The only organisation which reinvests its revenues globally, in India, in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Chad, Benin, everywhere in the world, is FIFA and that is why we need to have more events in which FIFA is (involved) to promote football in the world,” the FIFA President added. A key part of the partnership will be co-operation on the WTO’s cotton programme. Cotton is a particularly important source of livelihoods and export revenue in the “Cotton 4” (c4) countries - Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali - and FIFA and the WTO will look at ways to boost the sourcing of cotton used in sportswear from those nations. “I think it's a very important initiative and I am grateful to the DG for having brought this up,” said Gianni Infantino. “Here we found some concrete examples where we can link the cotton industry in Africa, the countries who need it most, with the football industry and try to come out with something concrete. It's a very, very important project.”