FIFA President advocates sports diplomacy as an effective tool for social change 

4 Jun 2021
  • Gianni Infantino was speaking at a Council of the European Union event

  • FIFA President illustrated the merit of strong global partnerships, active engagement and open dialogue

  • “Harnessing the power of football to benefit society, through the team-work of our partnerships, is sports diplomacy in action.”

FIFA President Gianni Infantino today delivered the keynote speech in the closing session of the Sports Diplomacy Conference. The event, hosted by the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, heralded a new effort to enhance the EU’s economic, diplomatic, political and social relations with non-EU members, and offered a two-day opportunity to discuss the role of sport in achieving global goals.

“Sports diplomacy is a relatively new term,” the FIFA President said. “A new term, however, which describes an old practice: the use of sport to realise policy goals, to help bring about positive social change. Harnessing the power of football to benefit society, through the team-work of our partnerships, is sports diplomacy in action.”

In sharing examples of FIFA activities and partnerships with conference delegates, along with an overview of FIFA’s Vision 2020-2023, President Infantino demonstrated how sports diplomacy can yield measurable and meaningful progress. “We are proud to work towards supporting global societies through collaboration with FIFA member associations, different UN agencies and over 100 NGOs,” the President said.

“A key goal of our Vision is to make football work for society. Introducing minimum sustainable infrastructure standards to protect the environment, strengthening the Football for Schools programme, and the continued work by FIFA Foundation, are just some examples.”

The FIFA President also touched upon other examples of successful sports diplomacy, including Iran women being welcomed to football matches as spectators for the first time, support offered to human rights campaigners and journalists in Russia during the FIFA World Cup 2018. He also discussed the significant progress achieved in protecting workforces ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, praised by the International Labour Organization and International Trade Union Confederation.

Accepting that engaging in sports diplomacy is a long-term effort, the President added that “setting positive examples through football will lead the way in promoting equality, priotising human rights and signalling the imperative of accountability. “The new FIFA is committed to building strong alliances. In every part of the world. Because it is my deep belief that through engagement and not exclusion we can achieve real and long-lasting change.”