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What happened at the 72nd FIFA Congress in Qatar?

Human rights, the Russia-Ukraine war and biennial World Cup plans are some of the issues that surfaced in Doha.

72nd Fifa Congress 2022, Doha Qatar, 31 March 2022 [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]
Thursday's Congress, where FIFA President Gianni Infantino gave an address, was the first in-person annual event of football's world governing body since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Doha, Qatar – The 72nd FIFA Congress has taken place in Doha, the capital of Qatar, which is set to host the 2022 football World Cup.

Thursday’s Congress was the first in-person annual event of football’s world governing body since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are some of the highlights from the event:

Qatar’s human rights record

Questions and concerns over Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers took centre stage at the conference.

Norwegian Football Federation President Lise Klaveness took to the stage during the Congress and termed the awarding of the tournament to Qatar in 2010 “unacceptable”.

Meanwhile, FIFA President Gianni Infantino pointed to “the changes that have happened in this country” as a positive sign towards Qatar being awarded the World Cup.

Hassan al-Thawadi, chief of Qatar’s World Cup organising committee, said labour reforms achieved by Qatar have been “historical” and the event would leave “truly transformational social, human, economic and environmental legacies”.

Hassan Al Thawadi is the Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy
Hassan al-Thawadi, chief of Qatar’s World Cup organising committee, who said labour reforms achieved by Qatar have been ‘historical’ [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Biennial World Cup plans

The FIFA president also seemingly stepped back from plans of hosting a World Cup every two years.

Infantino’s ambition to make the World Cup a biennial tournament has been under fire, but at the Congress he told member nations that FIFA had not been proposing the move but rather aiming to look into its feasibility.

“FIFA has not proposed a biennial World Cup,” he said. “The majority voted in the last Congress to start feasibility for this. After feasibility, the next phase starts where we find agreements and reach a compromise.

“We try to have debate and discuss to see what is suitable for everyone. Everyone has to benefit.”

72nd Fifa Congress 2022, Doha Qatar, 31 March 2022 [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]
The 72nd Fifa Congress in Doha [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Russia’s presence at the Congress

While Russia’s national team was thrown out of the World Cup qualifiers and its club sides banned from competitions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the country’s football federation was allowed to be part of the Congress on Thursday.

Answering a question on why the federation was not barred and suspended from FIFA, Infantino said: “Russia has a football union. Like any other federation, [it] has not been suspended, as such, by FIFA. It has been participating in this congress as well, because if we don’t have occasions to bring people together like a congress, then we’d rather stop and go home.”

Alexey Sorokin, adviser to the Russian football chief, meanwhile, backed its presence at the Congress, saying: “What does Russian football have to do with all this? What has Russian football done wrong? I don’t find any clauses in the FIFA statutes that were broken by Russian football.”

Ukraine’s video message

A three-minute video message was aired at the Congress from the head of Ukraine’s football federation, Andriy Pavelko.

72nd Fifa Congress 2022, Doha Qatar, 31 March 2022 [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]
Football Federation of Ukraine President Andriy Pavelko appeared via a prerecorded video message from Kyiv [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Pavelko wore an armoured vest as he spoke from the capital Kyiv while behind him people packed sandbags several metres high to protect a monument.

“Unfortunately, I cannot be with you today. Since February 24, we have not had the opportunity to develop our beloved game. For over a month, we have been defending our country and resisting the military aggression of the Russian Federation.

“During this period, we regularly receive sad news about the deaths of Ukrainian football community representatives. They are killed by the aggressor’s bullets and shells, one of the biggest armies in the world. Football has taken a back seat because every day adults and children die in our country.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies