The president of the international soccer governing body, Gianni Infantino, said on Thursday that the president’s executive order preventing people from six Muslim-majority nations from entering the US could put America out of the running for even bidding to hold the iconic tournament.
According to him “Teams who qualify for a World Cup need to have access to the country, otherwise there is no World Cup. That is obvious.”
Infantino explained that travel bans upheld by any country are simply irreconcilable with the nature of the event, which is based on the ideal of being a truly global event featuring nations from around the world.
“The requirements will be clear. And then each country can make up their decision, whether they want to bid or not based on the requirements,” he added.
Bidding for the 2026 games hasn’t begun yet, but the US has been seen as a potentially strong contender for hosting the games, and was considering a three-way bid with Canada and Mexico. While Trump’s new travel ban is temporary — as of now, it lasts 90 days — it also initiates a review process that could ultimately result in some countries being targeted by travel bans indefinitely.
Only Iran is one of the countries currently banned under Trump’s recently revised travel ban, which has qualified for the World Cup in the past.
As the most-watched sporting event in the world, it’s a major opportunity for the US to demonstrate “soft power” — to expand its influence by appearing attractive to the world and showcasing desirable cultural values.
But a country that’s bent on restricting the flow of people from other nations through blanket bans, with a case built on stoking fears among white voters, won’t be able to make any such appeal to the world with ease.