FIFA reminds US about World Cup obligations amid travel ban
LONDON (AP) - FIFA President Gianni Infantino reminded the Americans on Thursday that they would have to guarantee full access to the country for players, officials and supporters if they bid for the 2026 World Cup.
U.S. President Donald Trump's latest executive order bars new visas for people from six countries and temporarily shuts down America's refugee program, affecting would-be visitors and immigrants from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya.
Although the World Cup is nine years away, FIFA expects bidding to begin next year with the host to be decided in 2020.
"It's obvious when it comes to FIFA competitions as well, any team, including the supporters and officials of that team, who qualify for a World Cup need to have access to the country, otherwise there is no World Cup," Infantino said. "The requirements will be clear. And then each country can make up their decision, whether they want to bid or not based on the requirements. Nothing to do with the U.S. or not, it's general sporting criterion."
Infantino avoided directly criticizing Trump's policies.
"Mr. Trump is the president of the United States of America and as such of course (I have) huge respect for what he does," Infantino said following FIFA meetings in London. "He's in charge, together with his government, to take the decisions that are best for his country. That's why he has been elected."
FIFA has recently had to deal with the impact of a country restricting visas for one of its events. The FIFA Congress in May has been moved to Bahrain from Kuala Lumpur after Malaysia withdrew from hosting, citing problems allowing entry to some delegates, including officials from Israel.
"In the world there are certainly many countries who have bans, travel bans, visa requirements and so on and so forth," Infantino said.
The United States is mulling a three-way hosting bid with Canada and Mexico. A potential obstacle to the triple hosting is Trump's determination to build a wall on the Mexican border to help stem illegal immigration, with tensions between the countries over who would fund the border barrier.