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DOHA, QATAR – NOVEMBER 23: Team of Germany protests against FIFA during their team picture prior the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group E match between Germany and Japan at Khalifa International Stadium on November 23, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Marvin Ibo Guengoer – GES Sportfoto/Getty Images)
Fifa is jeopardising its own existence in Qatar

Fifa is jeopardising its own existence in Qatar

DOHA, QATAR – NOVEMBER 23: Team of Germany protests against FIFA during their team picture prior the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group E match between Germany and Japan at Khalifa International Stadium on November 23, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Marvin Ibo Guengoer – GES Sportfoto/Getty Images)

The federation’s actions at the World Cup have alienated most of the footballing world

Fifa’s decision not to punish Germany for wearing rainbow colours on their boots and cupping mouths in protest was a sign that football’s governing body is fearful of reprisals from Europe’s leading nations.

Self-preservation was always instinct No.1 at Fifa’s Swiss retreat. But Gianni Infantino’s organisation has already fallen off the high-wire of obsequiousness to Qatar and assurances that it would defend the liberal values World Cups are meant to represent.

Two days before Germany were allowed their fightback, England surrendered to a Fifa threat to impose “sporting sanctions” on Harry Kane if he emerged against Iran wearing a “One Love” anti-discrimination armband. If Fifa’s aim was to ingratiate themselves with Qatar’s ruling clan, they alienated much of world football – especially powerful European countries protective of their dignity.

Infantino’s bizarre attempt to claim parity with the world’s oppressed through his experience of being “bullied” at school for having ginger hair had already dismayed the major countries. Intimidating their captains with the threat of instant yellow cards (and worse) has produced a moment of jeopardy for Qatar’s friends in Switzerland.

Fifa’s power base is ownership of the World Cup. Without that it’s just a secretariat. Already the game thinks it has abused its privileges by sending the tournament to Qatar and bisecting the club calendar in winter. From there it wouldn’t take too much grumbling for the big clubs and leagues to decide they’ve had enough. Noel Mooney, chief executive of the Wales FA, called the U-turn on rainbow symbols “pretty cheap and pretty low” and said his members were “absolutely furious.”

After reporters came away from a press conference with the idea that Denmark might cancel their Fifa membership, denials were issued by Danish officials. But it might have been the first crack. Infantino and Qatar promised to observe basic freedoms of expression. The big nations won’t stand idly by while Fifa shame them in the eyes of their constituents.

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