One day the “fake news” meme will finally run its course, and we’ll all breathe a great sigh of relief. That day may be far off if it follows the pattern of, say, Pirates VS Ninjas, but we’ll get there someday.
Today is not that day.
At the end of an eventful FIFA congress (held in Bahrain this year) which saw the 2026 World Cup bidding process fast-tracked, Africa given more qualification slots, and both chairman of the ethics committee relieved of their posts, Gianni Infantino gave an exceptionally feisty speech to the assembled executives and dignitaries. In the speech, the FIFA president directly addressed the criticism his organization has received recently— as well as ongoing concerns over corruption and bribery— and declared the media’s coverage to be… wait for it!... “fake news.”
”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 didn’t refer to any specific reporting in the media or any particular line of critique. Just, “fake news.” All of it, apparently.
While discussing his efforts to clean up the organization and implement anti-corruption reforms, Infantino also talked, in a roundabout sort of way, about criticism from former FIFA reformers like Mark Pieth and Domenico Scala.
“Where were all these self-proclaimed good governance and compliance gurus who were supposed to control FIFA when all this was happening? They all miserably failed. It’s not me saying it. It’s the facts saying it. We will not accept any good governance lesson from any of these individuals who have miserably failed in protecting football, protecting Fifa, and in protecting football from FIFA.”
Infantino also tried to send a harsh message to corrupting elements that remain in FIFA.
”We are rebuilding Fifa’s reputation after all that happened, we have taken over an organisation which was at its deepest point,” added Infantino. “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.”
The Guardian reported that this last passage received “restrained applause.”
While the overtures toward reform and rooting out corruption are a definite improvement, Infantino’s attack on the media is absurd. Frankly, he’s starting to sound a little like his predecessor.