Gianni Infantino called Qatar 2022 “the best World Cup ever” as the FIFA president sidestepped the issue of migrant worker compensation.
The curtain falls on the first winter edition of the competition on Sunday as Lionel Messi looks to inspire Argentina to victory against reigning champions France.
Qatar controversially hosted the World Cup in 2010 and Infantino says the 22nd staging was his best yet, just as he said in Russia four and a half years ago.
“The first element that I want to highlight and emphasize, of course, is the praise, the unanimous praise, from the FIFA Council for this World Cup, for the unique cohesive power that this World Cup has shown,” said the president of FIFA.
“Thanks to everyone who participated, of course to Qatar, to all the volunteers who worked, to all of you, to all of you who contributed to make this World Cup the best in history.”
Infantino gave details about the attendance and praised the football, but was less forthcoming when asked more difficult questions in his first news conference since the tournament began.
That November 19 appearance saw the FIFA president make headlines with an hour-long monologue in which he said “today I feel gay” and “today I feel (like) a migrant worker”.
Infantino also took aim at European critics during an impassioned defense of Qatar’s progress on migrant workers’ rights.
A Guardian report last year said 6,500 migrant workers had been killed in the Gulf state since the winning of the World Cup, something authorities had “categorically” denied.
Hassan Al-Thawadi, secretary general of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, recently said that while there were three work-related deaths in construction directly for the tournament and 37 non-work related deaths, many more died on projects infrastructure.
Al-Thawadi put the estimate at “between 400 and 500”, a figure he posed to Infantino at FIFA’s press conference at the end of the World Cup in Doha.
“Every loss of life is a tragedy and everything we could do to change the legislation to protect the health of workers, to protect the situation of workers, we did it and it happened,” he said.
“Everything we can do for the future, we are doing. We keep working on it.
“We have had several discussions. We are very close to agreeing, this will happen in January certainly, a memorandum of understanding with the International Labor Organization because we want to carry this experience into the future and make sure that we can help.
“We can take advantage of the World Cup and the spotlight that is on the World Cup, and football in general, to make life a little better for people and their families.”
Infantino was less forthcoming when asked if the estimated $11m (£9m) revenue in the 2023-2026 cycle he so proudly announced could go towards workers’ compensation.
“You have to know that FIFA shares everything from its wealth,” the Italian said.
“All the revenue from FIFA is being redistributed and reinvested, mainly in the game and also in some other activities. It is enough to look at our accounts and you will see it immediately.
“In regards to the Legacy Fund, I’ve also been talking about that and we’ve released information about that before this World Cup and more will follow after this World Cup.”
FIFA said last month that the Legacy Fund “will set aside funds that will be dedicated to establishing a center of labor excellence in partnership with the International Labor Organization.”
There was no specific reference to money being used to compensate migrant workers, and Human Rights Watch said on Friday that “there is no commitment from FIFA or the Qatari authorities to remedy the abuses.”
Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, said: “FIFA boasts that this is the most successful World Cup in history, but there is no successful tournament when so many migrant workers have died entirely preventable deaths, including two workers who died during the World Cup itself.
“The only way to ensure a better legacy would be to finally come up with a genuine remedy for the abuses suffered by the migrant workers who built and delivered this World Cup.”
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