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FIFA President Gianni Infantino calls the death of migrant workers a ‘tragedy’

By Ben Church, CNN

FIFA president Gianni Infantino told reporters that “every person dying is one person too many” when asked about the death of migrant workers.

Infantino, the boss of soccer’s world governing body, was speaking to reporters in a press conference in Doha, Qatar, on Friday when he was asked to clarify how many workers had lost their lives in making the World Cup happen in Qatar.

“I think that every person dying is one person too many. It’s a tragedy. It’s a tragedy for the family, it’s a tragedy for everyone involved,” Infantino said.

“When we speak about figures, we always have to be very precise in order not to create impressions of something which is actually something else.”

In 2021, The Guardian reported that 6,500 South Asian migrant workers had died in Qatar since the country was awarded the World Cup in 2010, most of whom were involved in low-wage, dangerous labor, often undertaken in extreme heat.

The report did not connect all 6,500 deaths with World Cup infrastructure projects and has not been independently verified by CNN.

However, last year, World Cup chief Hassan Al-Thawadi disputed that figure and told CNN’s Becky Anderson that The Guardian’s figure was a “sensational headline” which was misleading and that the report lacked context.

The issue gained renewed traction following an interview Al-Thawadi gave during the tournament.

A spokesperson for Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) confirmed to CNN last week that there had been three work-related deaths during the construction of World Cup stadiums and 37 non-work-related deaths.

“For me, and for us [FIFA], every loss of life is a tragedy and whatever we could do in order to change the legislation to protect the health of the workers, to protect the situation of the workers, we did it and it happened,” Infantino added.

“Whatever we can still do for the future, we are doing it. We will continue to work on that.”

He added: “We want to bring this experience into the future and make sure that we can help, we can leverage the World Cup and the spotlight which is on the World Cup and on football more generally, to make lives of people and their families a bit better.”

‘Best World Cup ever’

With just two days until the World Cup final, Infantino praised volunteers and organizers for staging the “best World Cup ever” and congratulated teams for producing such exciting drama on the pitch.

The press conference was in stark contrast to Infantino’s opening remarks at the start of the tournament where he stunned the world with an hour-long tirade against journalists and Western critics of the World Cup.

On Friday, though, the president looked far more relaxed and tended to avoid speaking too much about controversial topics.

He instead looked to speak about the positives of a Middle Eastern country hosting the World Cup for the first time.

“I will wait until the end of the final to judge this World Cup,” he added. “But I think already now the transformative legacy of this World Cup is that many people from around the world have come to Qatar and discovered an Arab world they didn’t know or that they only knew from what was portrayed to them.

“At the same time, the Qataris, the Saudis and the Emiratis also welcomed many fans from around the world.

“The main legacy is that those that came and those that were here to welcome them have actually discovered that what is said or what they thought or what is believed, is not true.

“You can spend time together and just enjoy and just have a good time and just know each other better.”

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