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Fifa president Gianni Infantino sparked a backlash on the eve of the World Cup final after he gave advice to women on the “battle” for equality in football, saying they had “the power to convince us men of what we need to do”.
With England and Spain set to battle it out for football’s biggest prize on Sunday, the head of world sports told FIFA’s second women’s football conference in Sydney that they should “start treating women and men the same way”.
“I say to all women – and you know I have four daughters, so I have a few at home – that you have the power to change,” Infantino told the audience.
The head of the sport’s global governing body told women to “pick the right fights” and that they “have the power to convince us men of what we should and shouldn’t do”.
“You do it, just do it,” Infantino added. “With me, with FIFA you will find open doors. Just push the doors, they are open.”
Women have been sidelined in the world’s favorite sport for decades as male-dominated football authorities prioritize the men’s game for investment and marketing.
The Women’s World Cup is set to attract 2 billion viewers on screens globally, with nearly 2 million tickets sold for matches in Australia and New Zealand. The tournament brought in $570 million, which allowed it to tie in, according to Infantino.
Ada Hegerberg, the Norwegian star and Ballon d’Or winner, was among those who responded to Infantino’s remarks.
“Working on a little presentation to impress the guys,” she wrote on social media platform X, formerly Twitter. “Who’s in?”
Football commentator Jackie Utley said: “We’ve been fighting for decades against this kind of crap. So, very poor Infantino.”
This is not the first time that Infantino has caused controversy with his statements. In Doha last year, he answered critics of Qatar as the host of the men’s World Cup.
“I feel today that I am Qatari,” he told the journalists gathered at that tournament. Today I feel like an Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel like myself. Today I feel helpless. Today I feel [like] migrant worker I feel like them because I know what that means. . . to be intimidated.”
FIFA began organizing the Women’s World Cup in 1991, while the men’s tournament began in 1930. Infantino had previously made plans to introduce equal prize money in time for the 2026 men’s and 2027 women’s tournaments.
But he warned on Friday that equal prize money at the World Cup was “a motto”.
“This will not solve anything because it is one month every four years, which is a few players out of thousands and thousands of players,” he said. “We need to strive for equality but we have to do it on the ground.”
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