FIFA chief Gianni Infantino has said his experience of having immigrated to Switzerland helps him to understand people and resolve problems in his role at the helm of the world football governing body.
Talking exclusively to RT host and former football great Peter Schmeichel, Infantino said that his top goal is to develop football around the globe and to bring people together with the help of the game.
The FIFA president also spoke about the newly implemented Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system, explaining why they decided to introduce the innovative technology at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“Personally I was very skeptical at the beginning. I didn’t really believe that it could work because I was afraid for the flow of the game and interruptions. But on the sidelines for decades, everyone was saying we should have some video help for a referee,” Infantino said.
“In 2018, if everyone in front of his TV or inside the stadium in front of his mobile phone knows within a few seconds that a referee has committed a big mistake, and the only one who doesn’t know that is the referee himself, [this means] we made something wrong,” he added.
The head of FIFA said that statistics they received from testing the VAR system at numerous matches showed that the technology helps to avoid refereeing mistakes.
“We have tested the VAR in more than 1,000 official matches and the result has been that, without the VAR, there was one clear mistake of a referee every three games. With the VAR, there was one clear mistake every 19 games. The accuracy of referees’ decisions without the VAR is 93 percent, which is already extremely high. With the VAR, this percentage goes to 99 [percent]. It’s not 100 per cent, but 99 is better than 93,” he said.
“When it comes to interruption and the flow of the game, the statistics that captured my attention showed that every match we are losing seven minutes for throw-ins. Throw-ins don’t decide anything. VAR needs one minute per game and decides [the outcome of] the game. So we can lose one minute per game if it has impact on the game,” Infantino added.
The FIFA president, whose family emigrated from Italy to Switzerland when he was a kid, said that growing up in a different community impacted his development, helping him to embrace diversity.
“I think to some extent being an immigrant helps as well. Because you grow up embracing different cultures, different languages, entering conflicts which existed at that time in Switzerland. And you always have to find ways to get along. Football has always helped to find dialogue. [It helped] to bring together the Swiss and Italian communities in the village where I grew up.”
Infantino thinks that his openness to diversity and different cultures helps him to resolve problems and build bridges between countries.
“I’m convinced that this is helping. When you are part of a minority and you want to be heard or you want to convince [people], you need to have better arguments than the others. You need also to listen to the majority and to understand different dynamics. So, it opens your mind and helps to recognize that people in different places think differently, they have different traditions and different mentality.”
The FIFA chief said that severe criticism he received after his visit to Iran didn’t affect his plans to develop women’s football throughout the world.
“I went to Iran to speak about development of women’s football with the president of Iran and now I’m criticized in Western Europe for going to Iran. For me as FIFA president, If I don’t go and if I don’t speak to the president of Iran and the authorities there about women’s football and women’s access to stadiums, who is going to do that?
“What do we achieve if we just criticize, if we just dispute and argue, if we block and boycott? We will achieve nothing. If we have a dialogue maybe we will achieve just a little bit, but even a little bit is better than nothing. And maybe we will achieve nothing but we will keep this dialogue open and one day we will achieve success thanks to football.”