Ukraine Angry After FIFA Rejects Zelensky Request To Address World Cup Final
Are global audiences tired of hearing Ukraine's President Zelensky ask for more money? Or is it just 'Ukraine fatigue' setting in, which has already for months been observed among the American public, which explains the broader apparent waning interest in the conflict?
This week Zelensky issued a formal request for FIFA to allow him to share a message of "world peace" just before the kickoff to the World Cup final, scheduled for Sunday, but the world governing soccer body promptly rebuffed the request.
The Ukrainian government is angered and disappointed, given Zelensky has frequently been invited to make appeals before major public events, even including at the Grammys and Cannes Film Festival. This is when he's not already busy addressing the G7 or UN-sponsored events, or European Parliament. It goes without saying that the World Cup final will be the single most televised and watched event across the globe this year.
According to CNN, Kiev's lobbying effort is still underway, but Ukraine officials were "surprised" when FIFA quickly reacted negatively:
The source said Zelensky’s office is offering to appear in a video link to fans in the stadium in Qatar, ahead of the game and was surprised by the negative response. It’s unclear if Zelensky’s message would be live, or taped.
"We thought FIFA wanted to use its platform for the greater good," the source said.
Is the Ukrainian leader's 'superstar' status waning?
Likely it has more to do with FIFA walking a tightrope in terms of wanting to avoid political topics and public displays at the Qatar-hosted tournament. So far it's sought to avoid controversy on everything from the proposed 'One Love' armbands that some European teams wanted to wear, to imagery in favor of Iranian anti-government demonstrators.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino in a Friday news conference explained that the organization had put a stop to a number of attempts to make "political statements" in Qatar because it must "take care of everyone."
"We are a global organization and we don’t discriminate against anyone," Infantino explained. "We are defending values, we are defending human rights and rights of everyone at the World Cup. Those fans and the billions watching on TV, they have their own problems. They just want to watch 90 or 120 minutes without having to think about anything, but just enjoying a little moment of pleasure and joy. We have to give them a moment when they can forget about their problems and enjoy football."
Of course, this very rational, straightforward explanation is unlikely to appease Ukrainian officials... but at least they have the consolation that Zelensky was declared Time's Person of the Year.