Gianni Infantino

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Infantino tells Iran to let women into World Cup qualifiers

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FIFA President Gianni Infantino had asked Iran to ensure women are allowed to attend 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Now he’s expressing disappointment the country has reneged on its commitments.

In November, Infantino was in Teheran for the Asian Champions League final when Iranian women were allowed to watch Persepolis play Kashima Antlers of Japan. But things have changed since then.

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Infantino wrote this week to Iranian soccer federation president Mehdi Taj to say it’s “all the more disappointing that it was not possible to keep up the positive momentum and to continue with similar progress.”

In a letter seen by The Associated Press, Infantino highlights a June 6 game between Iran and Syria when “the gates were closed to female spectators and when, it would appear, a number of women seeking to attend the match were detained by security forces for a number of hours.”

Infantino says he wants “concrete steps” from the federation by July 15 “to ensure that all Iranian and foreign women who wish to do so will be allowed to buy tickets and to attend the matches” for 2022 World Cup qualifiers which begin in September.

—More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Top FIFA official Boban leaving to join AC Milan

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA presidential adviser Zvonimir Boban is returning to AC Milan as its chief football officer.

FIFA says Boban, the deputy secretary general with responsibility for soccer issues, is leaving within days.

Boban says: “I will always be grateful to FIFA President Gianni Infantino for the opportunity he gave me.”

[ MORE: U.S. falls in FIFA rankings ]

He joins Milan at a low point for the seven-time European champion, which the elegant midfielder helped to win the 1994 Champions League title.

Milan finished sixth in Serie A this season, extending its failure to qualify for the Champions League to six years.

UEFA is investigating Milan’s finances and has threatened the club with a one-season ban from European competitions if it fails to meet targets by June 2021.

Boban also helped Croatia reach the 1998 World Cup semifinals.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Putin awards medal to FIFA president Infantino

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MOSCOW (AP) Vladimir Putin has given FIFA president Gianni Infantino a medal.

The Russian president awarded Infantino the Order of Friendship at the Kremlin on Thursday.

Infantino has often said last year’s World Cup in Russia, where the host nation surprisingly reached the quarterfinals, was the best of the 21 editions of the tournament.

Putin thanked the FIFA leader for “your glowing assessment of our efforts.”

Infantino says of Russia’s “bonds of friendship” with soccer “is not the end, it is only the beginning of our fruitful cooperation and interaction.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

FIFA statement on racist incidents; matches should be abandoned

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Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, has issued a statement after a growing number of racist incidents have blighted the beautiful game.

With a host of incidents in recent weeks, the head of world soccer’s governing body has reiterated that referees can “go as far as to abandon a match in case of discriminatory incidents” by following FIFA’s three-step procedure during racist incidents.

What is the three-step procedure? Here’s a reminder:

  • Step 1: Referees have the authority to first stop the match and request a public announcement to insist that the discriminatory behaviour cease.
  • Step 2: The officials can then suspend the match until the behaviour stops following another warning announcement.
  • Step 3: Finally, if the behaviour still persists, the referee will decide to abandon the match.

After England’s players were subjected to racist abuse in Montenegro, Juventus’ Moise Kean and Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly were also racially abused, while fans of Chelsea were shown abusing Mohamed Salah in a video.

And those are just a few of the more high-profile incidents highlighted.

Below is the statement from Infantino in full, as FIFA and other governing bodies across the soccer world have to come down harder on those found guilty of racist abuse. Stadium bans and small fines aren’t working and this statement from Infantino admits to that.


In recent days, it has been very sad to see a number of racist incidents in football. This is really not acceptable. Racism has no place in football, just as it has no place in society either.

FIFA stands together with Prince Gouano, Kalidou Koulibaly, Raheem Sterling, Danny Rose, as well as any other player, coach, fan or participant in a football match who has suffered from racism, whether at the highest professional level or in a school playground. Racism needs to end. Full stop.

We introduced the so-called “three-step procedure” at our tournaments: a mechanism that allows referees to go as far as to abandon a match in case of discriminatory incidents.

FIFA urges all member associations, leagues, clubs and disciplinary bodies to adopt the same procedure, as well as a zero-tolerance approach to incidents of racism in football, and to apply harsh sanctions for any such kind of behaviour.

We will continue to be at the forefront of the fight against racism and we guarantee to all our member associations that they have our full support in taking up this challenge. We will not hesitate to do everything in our power to eradicate racism, and any other form of discrimination, from football, at any level and anywhere in the world.

Reports: 48-team 2022 World Cup decision in June

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If FIFA can find appropriate countries to help Qatar host the 2022 World Cup, we may very well have a 48-team tournament.

The 2022 edition has been under the microscope about as long as Qatar has held the rights to host it, with workers’ rights and slave labor joining a suspicious bidding process which ultimately helped usher former FIFA czar Sepp Blatter out of his seat of power.

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Ten venues across five countries have been mentioned as possible co-hosts, with Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait in the running to host select World Cup matches.

FIFA conditionally approved the expansion of the tournament on Friday, pending a “joint feasibility study” conducted by Qatar and FIFA.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino infamously quipped that sharing the tournament could bring a measure of peace to the Middle East.

A 24-team 2021 Club World Cup was also approved, as the threat of big European teams boycotting the summer edition looms over Infantino’s plan to expand FIFA’s marquee club tournament.