Fifa President Gianni Infantino has bashed the media for “fake news” and “Fifa bashing” in his address to the congress in Bahrain on Thursday.
After removal of the ethics committee chairmen earlier this week, Infantino gave a passionate speech in which he blamed the media for distorting the coverage, as he and Fifa attempt to rebuild the organisation. He said, “Sadly, the truth is not necessarily what is true, but what people believe. There is a lot of fake news and alternative facts about Fifa circulating. Fifa bashing has become a national sport in some countries”.
Infantino added, “We are rebuilding Fifa’s reputation after all that happened, we have taken over an organisation which was at its deepest point. If there is anyone who is in the room who thinks he can abuse football and enrich himself – I have one message: Leave. Leave football now. We don’t want you.”
This comment from Fifa’s president comes in the midst of criticism the governing body is facing for the removal of investigator Cornel Borbely and ethics adjudicator Hans-Joachim Eckert. Football’s governing body launched a reform process following the arrests of several officials on bribery and corruption charges in 2015 and Borbely and Eckert have combined to ban numerous football officials in that time. Hence, their removal came as a massive shock to many
At a news conference on Wednesday, they said their removal was a “setback for the fight against corruption”.
“We investigated several hundred cases and several hundred are still pending and ongoing at the moment,” Swiss Borbely said on Wednesday.
Fifa released a statement on Wednesday in response to the claims of Borbely and Eckert, and defended the decision by saying that the changes were made to “better reflect the geographic and gender diversity that must be a part of an international organisation like Fifa”.
“It’s not like we replaced them with non-independent people,” Fifa vice president Victor Montagliani said.
“They were replaced by two independent people of very high quality and standards. And so with all due respect, and they may be disappointed that they wanted to continue in the role, there’s a lot of chairmen of a lot of other committees that want to continue as well. But at the end of the day Fifa and any other organisation has the right to change people on the committees.”
The duo’s departure makes little sense at the moment considering the devastating scandals the organisation has gone through in recent years. It remains to be seen how the body responds further to the criticism it is facing, but the President has certainly sent a strong message.