Gianni Infantino might give off major Bond villain vibes – the cosy chats with unscrupulous autocrats, the fleet of private jets, the impeccably lacquered bonce, the name – but really, he’s just a nice guy in a tough spot, doing the best he can. After all, he wasn’t in charge when Fifa awarded the Human Rights World Cup to Qatar – having taken the reins in 2016, Po’ Gianni has had barely six years to make what little difference he can as the leader of world football’s governing body. Finally then, with the HRWC’s big kick-off six days away and with tofu-munching do-gooders adding to the chorus of concern over a lack of tangible progress in Qatar, Infantino had his big idea.
Speaking to G20 leaders over lunch in Bali, he called for a “temporary ceasefire” in Ukraine for the duration of the big bash in Qatar. “Football and the [HR] World Cup are offering you and the world a unique platform of unity and peace,” Infantino cheered, as various suits asked to have whatever the grinning bald guy was having. “Maybe the current [HR] World Cup can be that positive trigger.” That’s some serious blue sky thinking. And yes, we’re sure critics will be queuing up to “hand out moral lessons” (G Infantino, 2022), pointing out that a couple of weeks ago, Infantino himself wrote to every competing nation, urging everyone to “focus on football” in Qatar and “not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle”. Presumably, ones that have nothing to do with the 2022 host nation are OK. Those same hand-wringing haters might also suggest that, as the recipient of a Russian Order of Friendship medal, Infantino has a better chance of getting through to Vladimir Putin than any of those sat around the table.
Said tedious naysayers might also suggest that focusing on the plight of migrants would be a better use of Gianni’s time, but he’s way ahead of them – back in January, he suggested a biennial World Cup “might give hope to Africans so that they don’t need to cross the Mediterranean in order to find, probably, death in the sea”. Yet Infantino seems less keen to engage with initiatives that actually have a basis in reality, like the #PayUpFifa campaign, led by Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, calling for support and financial compensation for migrant workers in Qatar.
Infantino addressed the issue of workers’ rights in Doha earlier this month, breezily claiming “some criticism was raised, rightfully, and changes have happened.” Since then, 10 European FAs have collectively called for “concrete answers on issues, [such as] the compensation fund for migrant workers”. Infantino has kept his counsel since then, perhaps wary of an ability to lever his foot directly into his mouth every time he opens it. “When you give work to somebody, even in hard conditions, you give him dignity and pride,” Infantino said in May, before expressing an attempt at solidarity with migrant workers far from home, toiling in the heat of Qatar. “My family emigrated from Italy to Switzerland.” Gianni is nothing if not a man of the people.
OH FIVER, WE BARELY KNEW YE
The Fiver made the fatal mistake of stopping out last night – turns out a whole 2.5l bottle of Fistfight, The Fiver’s favourite 74.8% ABV turps-infused sippin’ liquor, doesn’t pair well with Gaviscon, hence waking in a skip on the Caledonian Road – and when we got back to Fiver Towers this morning, we found The Man had taken the opportunity to change all the locks. Poor Fiver! And if that wasn’t bad enough, upon peering through the window, we witnessed an army of clipboard-clutching marketing milquetoasts clearing out the desks, ripping up the carpet, and changing all the signage, letterheads and other associated brand paraphernalia to Football Daily. Oh milquetoasts! How could you! Pity poor Fiver!
So there it is. That was then, this is now, and here we are. Football Daily. Football Daily! The Man’s done a proper number on us this time. Poor Football Daily’s a-cold!
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I was there and saw everything, it was a funny moment that was misinterpreted on the outside. I understand that the images can be interpreted in many ways, but it was a joke between them. They have a great relationship because they play together, I saw them all day yesterday. There is no problem between them” – João Mário insists that an awkward handshake between Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes was the result of a joke between the Portugal and Manchester United teammates. Speaking of which, here’s Jamie Jackson on that chinwag.
“Re: the Cristiano Ronaldo interview given to Piers Morgan (yesterday’s Fiver). Yes, it was a great chance for ‘a narcissistic, self-serving egomaniac’ (to use Barney Ronay’s description) to make it all about himself and he took it with both hands, but I think Ronaldo is not entirely faultless either” – Admir Pajic.
“Fair play to Lufthansa. This is the plane taking the German team to the HRWC” – Jim Salter.
“The admirable pedant, Dan Westacott takes The Fiver to task over the fibia/fibula/tibia controversy (yesterday’s Fiver letters), only to ruin his short-lived reputation by suggesting that the fibula or tibia of Sadio Mané may have gone twang! Since when did a bone twang?”– Adam Forde.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winners of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Admir Pajic … but prizes are back for the rest of the week from Wednesday.
The final part of David Squires’s powerful series to set up the HRWC, telling the story of Rupchandra Rumba and his widow.
The Football Weekly podcast is turning Football Daily too. Here’s the first HRWC special, focusing on Groups A and B, plus: how did we get here?
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Celtic and Rangers never managed it, but Big Paper has landed a 10th Football Supporters’ Association title in a row for best Big Paper. Whoop! Barney Ronay and the podcast are celebrating wins too.
Chelsea have appointed Paul Winstanley as their “director of global talent and transfers”, which means that they’ve now procured Brighton’s manager, assistant manager, current player of the season, first-team coach, goalkeeping coach, head of recruitment, etc and so on.
England have revealed their squad numbers for the HRWC, with James Maddison handed the, erm, coveted No 25 shirt which means the Leicester playmaker’s fitness is not too troublesome.
Aaron Lennon has called time on his career at the age of 35.
And Ashton United of the Northern Premier League Division have offered to take Erling Haaland on loan from Manchester City to stop the gigantic goalbot from seizing up while he’s in storage. “It just makes sense,” cackled manager Michael Clegg. “City aren’t playing, and we want to help by keeping [him] fit. It makes more sense than him playing golf for six weeks.”
STILL WANT MORE?
“Giving [it] to Qatar was a mistake. It doesn’t belong there.” The Fiver’s World Cup-winning colleague, Philipp Lahm, on why he won’t be going to the HRWC.
Stadiums of shame: the HRWC numbers that Qatar’s Supreme Committee doesn’t want you to see. By Sean Ingle.
Like 90s bangers at a Skegness indie night, our HRWC guides just keep on dropping. Today: Brazil and Cameroon.
Barney Ronay on Cristiano Ronaldo’s interview, aka: SI-U-Later.