We need to keep bad politics out of sports – Kagame

On 16 March 2023 at 02:10

President Paul Kagame has said that bad politics should be kept out of sports to ensure that it serves as a tool that unites people.

The Head of State was delivering remarks on Thursday 16th March 2023 at the 73rd Congress of the World’s Football Governing Body (FIFA) held at BK Arena.

Kagame thanked FIFA for having selected Rwanda as a host of the congress bringing together 211 member associations.

“This is a great honour because you could have chosen to go elsewhere,” he said.

Kagame stated that, through the leadership of Infantino, the World Cup presented opportunities for increased participation of African.

“I first got to know Gianni around eight years ago when he was campaigning to lead FIFA. I was convinced by his values and by his vision for the positive role that football can play in society. He was the leader FIFA needed at that moment and everything I have seen from that time until now assures me that he deserves to continue to lead this organization,” he said.

"Under the new FIFA World Cup format, the slots available for African teams will almost double, creating even more engagement and visibility on our continent. What is important is the plan to continue developing and anchoring football in Africa," added Kagame.

The President maintained that the African Cup of Nationals is not a little tournament stressing that the difference between a successful player in Africa and Europe has nothing to do with talent.

“Often, the difference between a successful player in Africa and Europe is not talent. It is the lack of quality infrastructure, training and support,” he underscored.

Kagame stressed the need for collaboration between federations and associations to reach common objectives quickly and observed that today’s world needs sports that unites people.

“What the world needs is to see more of the positive spirit of sportsmanship in pour politics rather than bringing political divisions into sports. […] We need to keep bad politics out of sports,” he stated.

Kagame pointed out an example alluding to the way criticisms increased when Qatar was selected to host the World Cup 2022 until it ended successfully.

“As we saw last year, in the constant hypocritical criticisms at the World Cup; instead of asking why is it being held there, first ask why not?” he wondered.

“Unless we are talking about a kind of entitlement that only some of us on this globe deserve to enjoy. It is about keeping some people in their place but that kind of attitude should have been left far behind in history by now,” added Kagame.

The Head of State also said that athletes have rights to object to what personally affects them and their communities.

“They certainly do. Politics in sports reflects the problems that society faces. When fans throw bananas at African football players or taunt a female referee; that is because of a negative social environment that feeds those wrong behaviours.

We need to work together to ensure that the game is inclusive and respectful of everyone,” he stated.

On 2nd October 2010, Qatar was selected as a host for World Cup 2022.

On 5th May 2011, the former FIFA Vice President, Jack Warner made revelations that the process involved corruption.

It was reported that Qatar offered US$1.5 million bribe to the African Confederation Cup (CAF), which was led by Issa Hayatou at the time to vote for its Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid.

On 25th September 2013, The Guardian reported that many workers from Nepal faced mistreatment in the country under what was termed as a form of ‘slavery’.

On 18th November 2013, Amnesty International released a report pointing out problems of workers receiving peanuts yet they are employed in multibillion construction projects.

In 2014, The Observer reported that 400 migrants from Nepal died during contraction works in Qatar since it was selected to host the World Cup in 2010.

In February 2021, The Guardian reported that 6,500 migrants during construction of a stadium. Figures had been provided by embassies.

Qatar claimed that the figures were false because some of those people succumbed to natural cause with no connection to projects related to preparations for the World Cup 2022.

Sources confirming correct figures indicated that only 3 out of 37 employees hired to build a stadium died doing related works between 2014 and 2020.

As for other countries that hosted the World Cup, South Africa (2010), Brazil (2014) and Russia (2018) registered two, eight and 21 deaths respectively.

Apparently, the critics were disappointed to see Qatar hosting the World Cup given that such incidents are put in shoulders of construction companies in Europe instead of blaming the country.

Qatar said that 30,000 foreigners were hired during the construction of stadiums.

President Kagame with Gianni Infantino at the 73rd FIFA Congress in Kigali.