Headlines > Cardinal mocks claim that FIFA is more influential than religion

27 March 2015 | by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

Cardinal mocks claim that FIFA is more influential than religion

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been “shown the yellow card” by Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne for boasting that football’s international governing body is more influential than any religion.

Mr Blatter told the Swiss paper Sonntags Zeitung: “We reach 1.6 billion people. FIFA is more influential than any country in the world or any religion through the positive emotions football triggers.”

“We move masses,” he said. “And we want to make use of this to create more peace, equality and health in this world.”

Cardinal Woelki, who is a keen footballer and supports FC Cologne, said on domradio (Cologne’s church radio), that more than two billion Christians worldwide would soon be celebrating Easter and would if necessary lay down their lives for their faith. “With all enthusiasm for football, I think Mr Blatter has vastly overestimated himself and his association. He’s scored pretty much of an own goal and so belongs on the bench so that he can reorient himself and have another think,” Cardinal Woelki said.

While FIFA’s social engagement was “great”, many people thought it was “not so much a case of justice, peace and health as of the really big money. And where the really big money flows, the path to corruption is often short”, Woelki said. He gave as an example the highly controversial FIFA choice of Qatar as the venue for the 2022 World Cup – which requires moving the competition time to the middle of the northern hemisphere winter - as an example.

One should “take Mr Blatter at his word” as far as social justice was concerned, the cardinal suggested, highlighting the inhuman conditions under which stadiums are being built in Qatar. “When people are dying every day on the world championship building sites because they are forced to work without safety measures, when they are mercilessly exploited as they haven’t got proper work contracts, that is where Mr Blatter and his FIFA should be putting the values for which they allegedly want to stand into practice,” Cardinal Woelki underlined. “Football is a thrilling sport but I don’t believe in a football God and certainly not in a ‘demi-football-god’, which is what Mr Blatter would so love to be.”

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