Zelensky's 'message of peace' request at FIFA WC final rebuffed: Report

Updated on Dec 17, 2022 06:44 PM IST

Russia-Ukraine conflict: Moscow invaded Ukraine late February in a war that has dragged on for months now.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) speaks to media on April 4, 2022. (Photo by RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP) (AFP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) speaks to media on April 4, 2022. (Photo by RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP) (AFP)

FIFA - world football's governing body - has rejected a request by Volodymyr Zelensky - president of an Ukrainian nation battered by Russian military attacks since late February - to let him share a message of peace before the 2022 World Cup final in Qatar's Doha on Sunday.

A source - understood to be within the Ukraine president's office - told US broadcaster CNN Zelensky had wanted to appear via a video link ahead of the game between defending champions France and Lionel Messi's Argentina, and was surprised by the negative response.

"We thought FIFA wanted to use its platform for the greater good," the source told CNN. Talks are still ongoing, the source added. CNN said it had reached out to FIFA for a comment but there was no immediate response.

The World Cup final will be watched by hundreds of millions worldwide and presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Ukraine to reach out to the world and plead for help in the face of a relentless onslaught by Russian forces.

READ | Kyiv warns of long cuts after Russian missiles batter grid

Russia fired more than 70 missiles at Ukraine Friday in one of its biggest attacks since the start of the war, with Kyiv warning that Moscow is planning a new all-out offensive in early 2023.

READ | Zelensky says swathe of Ukraine contaminated with mines

However, FIFA has rules against political messages and frowned on participating nations from speaking up on issues like human rights and in support of LGBTQ communities, although both Germany and Iran went ahead with their protests.

READ | Germany players cover mouths in team photo amid row at FIFA WC

FIFA boss Gianni Infantino - under heavy fire for choosing a nation also accused of mistreating migrant workers - has defended himself and the football body saying 'we are a global organisation... don't discriminate against anyone'.

He also acknowledged Friday that FIFA had moved to block 'some political statements' so as to 'take care of everyone'.

Zelensky - who this month was named TIME magazine's 'Person of the Year' - has emerged as a heroic figure in Ukraine's resistance, appearing several times at the United Nations and in front of other global bodies to drum up support.

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