FIFA President: Football can change the world

  • Gianni Infantino was speaking at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland

  • FIFA President was part of a panel hosted by Patrice Motsepe including H.E. Ronaldo, Édouard Mendy, Jill Ellis, Arsène Wenger and H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi

  • H.H. Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar opened the session

Speaking during a panel session at the World Economic Forum, FIFA President Gianni Infantino reiterated his long-held belief in football’s ability to heal and unite on a global scale, using the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ as an example of an upcoming opportunity, after the pandemic and global conflicts have isolated and divided people around the world. “Mandela was saying that sport can change the world, that it can inspire, that it unites, and he was right with that,” Mr Infantino told delegates gathered in Davos, Switzerland. “Football, as the most popular sport in the world, has a unique reach. “The last FIFA World Cup was watched by four billion people, the last FIFA Women’s World Cup by 1.2 billion people. This World Cup in Qatar will be watched by five billion people, way above half of the world’s population. All these people who follow and pursue the same passion, they all feel the same way and they all know that football has this uniting force.”

During the session, President Infantino also emphasised that FIFA is committed to putting the power of that reach at the service of society, to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and to use the sport as a force for good. With a gross output of 200 billion USD, and a gross value added of 150 billion USD – the FIFA President told delegates that it was equivalent to that of a small to medium-sized country, and with that came vast opportunity and responsibility.

“If you translate this economic potential into the social dimension of football, football changes lives,” Mr Infantino continued. “It has changed the lives of many people: those who become players, big players, bigger players, megastars, and boys and girls, who, thanks to football can [experience] values, friendships, team spirit and many other values. So, the social impact is there because of the economic impact. And then the emotion, that’s the irrational part of it. It’s something you cannot explain.”

The FIFA President also outlined the importance of events such as the FIFA World Cup when it comes to bringing people of different backgrounds, religions, ethnicities and nationalities. “This is a special year,” President Infantino continued. “We’ve come out of the pandemic; we are in a divided world. We need excuses to bring people together. We have the best excuse with the World Cup. Come to Qatar from 21 November to 18 December, as you will experience the experience of your life, the best World Cup ever not only from a football point of view, but also from an experience point of view, witnessing the Arab culture, the history, the welcoming way of dealing with those who will come, and this will certainly contribute to maybe a little bit to making the world feel a little bit better.” The session, titled ‘Sport as a Unifying Force’ was opened by H.H. Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar, who reinterred the fundamental message of football’s unifying force.

His Highness said in his opening remarks: “The impact of such a sporting event is not limited to fun but goes far beyond that – to achieve mutual understanding between different cultures and different backgrounds. The people of Qatar and the region are excited to showcase our hospitality and the ancient culture of the Arab world.” The panel was moderated by CAF President and FIFA Vice-President, Dr. Patrice Motsepe, and also included , two-time FIFA World Cup winner Ronaldo, CAF Africa Cup of Nations, FIFA Club World Cup-winner and The Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper 2021, Édouard Mendy, Arsène Wenger, FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development, double FIFA World Women’s Cup winning coach Jill Ellis as well as H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy.