Infantino hails "strong" FIFA as focus shifts to Asia

  • Football
  • Wednesday, 09 Dec 2020

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup - UEFA Preliminary Draw - Hallenstadion, Zurich, Switzerland - December 7, 2020 FIFA President Gianni Infantino during the draw FIFA/Kurt Schorrer/Handout via REUTERS

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Gianni Infantino claimed the changes made since he replaced Sepp Blatter at the helm of football's governing body have allowed FIFA to provide significant assistance to embattled member associations since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Addressing the Asian Football Confederation's online congress, Infantino said the provision of $1.5 billion for members via the COVID-19 Relief Plan was "unprecedented" and that such measures could not have been taken previously.

"For me, and all FIFA Council members, it was immediately clear we can help and we can assist because the financial situation of FIFA is extremely strong and solid," said Infantino, who took over from Blatter in 2016.

"FIFA had its pandemic already five years ago and now we have our antibodies. We are strong, we are solid and we have been able to help and it was very clear that we could help and we should help.

"That's what we have done with the COVID relief fund. Not for the top professional game, but also for the women’s game for the grassroots game to keep football alive all over the world because that's our mission and that's our task."

Infantino was addressing the Asian body ahead of a period where the continent take on increased significance, with the region hosting the next two editions of the FIFA Club World Cup, including the new 24-team version in China.

Indonesia is slated to host the FIFA U20 World Cup in May and June next year while the FIFA U17 Women's World Cup is due to be held in India in 2022, the same year Qatar hosts the World Cup finals.

Infantino said the event in the Gulf state would be "the best World Cup ever".

"I've been in Doha a couple of weeks ago, work is progressing in an incredible way," he said.

"Everything will be ready, everything will be state of the art and by then we will certainly be able to celebrate, all together, at a football party that the world has not yet seen."

(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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