Infantino says will talk to Muntari, fight racist ‘idiots’

Infantino says will talk to Muntari, fight racist ‘idiots’

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In this file photo, FIFA President Gianni Infantino gives a press conference at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. An accelerated process to hand North America the 2026 World Cup is set to be approved by soccer leaders this week, with FIFA President Gianni Infantino hoping for a "bulletproof" process to avoid past voting scandals. — AP

MANAMA —FIFA President Gianni Infantino said he intends to talk with Pescara midfielder Sulley Muntari, the victim of racist abuse in Italian football, and vowed to fight racist “idiots”.

Muntari was booked for complaining about racist abuse during a match at Cagliari and subsequently suspended, although that sanction was later lifted. The Ghanaian then walked off the field in protest in the final minutes of the game.

Infantino told reporters on Tuesday that he intended to talk with Muntari and would give him FIFA’s “full solidarity”. The FIFA president also said he would be discussing the issue with Italian Football Federation President Carlo Tavecchio about the issue.

“Of course I will speak to Tavecchio, I will speak to Muntari as well… we will work together,” Infantino, who is in Bahrain for Thursday’s FIFA Congress said.

Asked what could be done about the issue, Infantino said: “Fight. Continue to fight. It’s good to bring these things out when they happen. We have to work. We have to work on the people.”

Infantino said the protocol, established by UEFA in Europe, with a series of stadium announcements leading up to a possible stopping of the game, should be applied.

“Unfortunately idiots, there are always idiots everywhere but we have to fight them,” he said.

Muntari said he had complained that parts of the crowd, including a group of children, had hurled racist insults at him from the start of the game in Cagliari on April 30.

The player said the referee told him to stop talking to the crowd and ended up showing him the yellow card for dissent in the 90th minute.

The decision to punish Muntari has been widely criticized and the player himself has said FIFA and UEFA are not taking the issue of racism seriously.

FIFA Council set to back N. American 2026 Cup bid

The ruling council of soccer’s world governing body FIFA is likely to back a three-nation North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup when it meets on Tuesday here.

With no rival bid having emerged, the organizers of the joint proposal from the United States, Mexico and Canada want a “non-competitive window” to prepare their detailed plan and then be given full, formal ratification in 2018.

A motion to fast-track the North American bid will be in front of FIFA’s Congress on Thursday but the smaller leadership body, the FIFA Council, will give its verdict on the idea on Tuesday.

Frequently in FIFA politics, the guidance of the council, previously the executive committee, is loyally followed by the full membership, making Tuesday’s meeting crucial for the North Americans.

While there is plenty of confidence around the three-nation bid, FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura said she was keen to ensure the council hears the plan in full before giving its voting guidance to congress.

“We will listen to what the three member associations are going to propose and then we will take it forward. We need more information before we can take it to congress,” she told Reuters on Monday.

“The Council will be discussing the proposal and see how it has to go to the congress,” she added, confirming that a recommendation on the vote would be made.

“What the administration is concerned about is that the bidding process is free, inclusive and transparent and we will make sure that the highest level of standards are respected and endorsed by anyone who would like to make a proposal to host the World Cup,” said Samoura.

The proposal before congress from the three North American federations calls for a “principle decision” in favor of their bid and says they will aim to “satisfy the technical bid requirements by March 31, 2018”.

Should those requirements be met, as those behind the bid believe they will be, the proposal calls for a final ratification at the 2018 FIFA Congress. The approach is significantly faster than FIFA’s original schedule of a bidding process concluding in 2020.

The three-nation bid already has plans in place to move quickly on creating a more formal structure as soon as they get the green light from FIFA’s membership. So far no rival bid for 2026 has emerged although there have been reports that Morocco could join the race.

The 2018 tournament will be held in Russia with Qatar hosting the finals in 2022. FIFA’s current rotation policy states that the continental confederation which held the previous two events cannot bid, ruling Europe and Asia out of the 2026 running.

FIFA have also voted to expand the World Cup to 48 teams for the 2026 edition, requiring more facilities to handle the increase to 80 games while also opening the door to joint bids.

The North American proposal is for 60 games in the US with Mexico and Canada each getting 10 early stage matches. — Reuters

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