FIFA president Gianni Infantino has defended the decision to award the hosting of his much-vaunted new Club World Cup to China despite the country facing international condemnation for the treatment of its Uighur minority.
“Maybe that with going there, playing there, in China or anywhere else in the world, people will continue to speak about topics like this, to raise these questions, and maybe eventually the situations for people are going to improve,” Infantino said to journalists on Friday in Doha.
There has been an international outcry at China’s rounding-up of an estimated one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities in internment camps in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.
On Friday the European Parliament called for targeted sanctions to be imposed against Chinese officials.
The issue crossed over into football last week when the Arsenal player Mesut Ozil, a German international of Turkish origin, condemned the treatment of the Uighur minority in a Twitter post.
In response, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV pulled its coverage of Arsenal’s Premier League game against Manchester City.
Ozil has also been deleted from Chinese versions of the popular Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) mobile game. Arsenal, however, distanced themselves from their player’s comments.
Infantino is in Qatar for Saturday’s Club World Cup final, with Liverpool facing Flamengo to decide the winner of what is currently a seven-team event.
Next year’s competition will be the last in its current format before it goes to China as an expanded 24-team tournament to be held in June and July of 2021.
FIFA was also heavily criticised for awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar despite concerns over the country’s treatment of migrant workers, including those involved in the construction of stadiums.
However, Infantino said that world football’s governing body could not “solve issues that the world is not capable of solving.”
He added: “How many billions in trade is done every year by everyone in the world with all these countries that are criticised?
“Nobody seems to have a problem with that. Suddenly it comes to football and there is a problem.”