Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter thinks Iran should be barred from the upcoming World Cup in Qatar, a Swiss paper and online news website quoted him as saying Friday.
The comments come amid nationwide protests that have gripped Iran for weeks, following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in custody of the morality police.
Swiss outlet ‘Blick’ showed a video of the former FIFA President at a talk at its publisher’s headquarters on Thursday.
Blatter was asked by a reporter: “If you were still FIFA president today would you let Iran – which is currently killing young women in the streets, which is sending weapons to Russia to attack Ukraine – play in the World Cup?”
“No,” Blatter responded, adding that he believes the current FIFA President Gianni Infantino lacks courage to take a clear stance on Iran.
“He’s already having trouble creating a fund together with the Qataris – for all the workers who died in the construction of the infrastructure.
“I think it should be done by someone from FIFA who has courage. But Infantino doesn’t even have the courage to give journalists an answer.”
FIFA did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment on Blatter’s suggestion that Iran should be barred from the 2022 World Cup and his views on Infantino.
Blatter’s comments come weeks after a law firm sent a letter to FIFA on behalf of a group of former and current Iranian sports figures urging soccer’s governing body to suspend the Iranian Football Federation (FFIRI) and ban it from participating at this year’s World Cup in Qatar.
The letter says the actions of Iran’s football federation violate FIFA statues and regulations.
“Iran’s brutality and belligerence towards its own people has reached a tipping point, demanding an unequivocal and firm disassociation from the footballing and sports world,” a press release issued alongside the letter reads.
Other athletes in Iran have joined in the protests.
After scoring a goal in the Emirates Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup final, Saeed Piramoon imitated cutting his hair – a move signaling support for nationwide protests in the country by calling for greater freedoms for women – an act that Iran’s football authorities have vowed to deal with.
Meanwhile, soccer player Sardar Azmoun risks missing out on being selected for the World Cup after criticizing the government.
“That is worth sacrificing for one strand of Iranian women’s hair,” Azmoun wrote in an Instagram story. “Shame on you who kill people so easily. Long live Iranian women.”
Blatter’s comments are not the only critiques that the 86-year-old has had about the organization he used to be in charge of.
Earlier this week he told Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger that “Qatar is a mistake,” adding that “the choice was bad.”
“It is too small of a country. Football and the World Cup are too big for it,” Blatter said of Qatar, the first country in the Middle East to host the tournament.
“Since then, social considerations and human rights are taken into account,” he added.
The World Cup starts on November 20 with Iran starting its campaign against England on November 21.
Wayne Sterling, Don Riddell and Artemis Moshtaghian contributed reporting.