GIANNI INFANTINO (FIFA PRESIDENT)
“We are convinced of the power of our game.” A short phrase by Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, from his closing press conference at this winter’s World Cup. Compared with his opening speech some four weeks previously, a wild-eyed address that went viral in a manner unusual for sports administrators, it appears harmless enough. But the more you stare at the words, the more revealing the sentence becomes.
The power of football has been a matter of contention for the duration of Qatar 2022. What the world’s most popular spectator sport symbolises, what it can achieve, and what it can cover up have been the subject of intense debate. Tomorrow the tournament reaches its climax with a blue-chip final between France and Argentina. As the world tunes in, perhaps now is the time to draw conclusions as to the effect of such power.
MESSI VS MBAPPE
Over in Kosovo, meanwhile, the artist Alkent Pozhegu has made a Messi and Mbappé mosaic from grain and seeds in the town of Gjakova. You love to see it.
As the World Cup winners lift the golden trophy on Sunday evening, an alternative to the ultimate footballing achievement will highlight alleged corruption and reported human rights violations that have been a feature of the 2022 tournament hosted by Qatar.
A Russian-born conceptual artist has created a replica of the World Cup trophy that slowly fills with crude oil. It has a symbolic price of $150m – a figure that matches the amount of money allegedly spent on bribes and kickbacks to FIFA officials, according to US criminal investigators in 2015.
Great insight here on Didier Deschamps, the France head coach, by Philippe Auclair:
“This has already been a World Cup of records for France, who are chasing a third title in less than a quarter of a century on Sunday. The captain, Hugo Lloris, will celebrate his 145th cap against Argentina, three more than the previous record holder, Lilian Thuram.
Olivier Giroud equalled, then surpassed, the 52 goals that Thierry Henry had scored for Les Bleus.
Antoine Griezmann, one of this tournament’s standout performers, has now played a barely believable 72 consecutive games for France.
“Then there is Didier Deschamps, who will be attempting to win the World Cup for a third time to go level with Pelé, the only other person to have achieved that feat; Deschamps, one of only three men, the others being Brazil’s Mário Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer, to become a world champion as a manager and as a player; Deschamps who, if France win on Sunday, will have a legitimate claim to be considered the most decorated man in the history of the game; Deschamps, who only joined a football club at the age of 11, and has certainly made up for lost time since then.”