FIFA Chief on Equal Pay: 'Pick the Right Battles'

Gianni Infantino catches flak for telling women players to 'convince us men'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2023 7:28 AM CDT
FIFA Chief on Equal Pay in Soccer: 'Convince Us Men'
Gianni Infantino, left, and New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Hipkins watch a women's soccer match between Spain and the Netherlands in Wellington, New Zealand, on Aug. 11.   (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Equal pay has long been a bone of contention for women's soccer, and FIFA's president appears to be on the side of achieving "equality" overall, but his recent wording on the subject is rankling some fans. Speaking at the FIFA Women's Football Convention ahead of Sunday's World Cup final match between Spain and England, Gianni Infantino said, per the Guardian, that women "have the power to change," but that they need to "pick the right battles. Pick the right fights. You have the power to convince us men what we have to do and what we don't have to do. ... Just do it."

He offered a final word of encouragement: "With men, with FIFA, you will find open doors. Just push the doors. They are open." Infantino also noted that equal pay in big tournaments would only be a "symbol" that wouldn't "solve anything." The pot for Sunday's match is $110 million, as compared to the men's $440 million pot for 2022's World Cup. "We need to go for equality, but we have to do it for real," he said. Fans were quick to offer their thoughts on Infantino's remarks. "'Pick the right fight.' Can we send him back to the 18th century where he will be happy?" one commenter noted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Another wrote: "Why should women have to convince men? Aren't the men intelligent enough to understand the problem? If not, why do they think they have the right to be in charge? As to 'pushing the doors' why aren't the men holding them wide open?" Ada Hegerberg, a Norwegian soccer star who has won the Ballon d'Or award for her play, simply snarked, "Working on a little presentation to convince men. Who's in?" Infantino also bragged Friday about FIFA's decision to expand from the 24 women's teams seen during the 2019 World Cup to this year's 32, per ESPN.

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"The usual critics ... were saying it's not going to work," he said. "'The level is too different.' 'You will have 15-0 scores.' 'It will be bad for women's football.' ... I'm sorry, but FIFA was right. As it happens quite often in the last years, FIFA was right once more." Meanwhile, amid the commotion about women's pay, the Guardian reports that Aussie police mostly rejected FIFA's request to provide Infantino with a law enforcement escort—a perk usually offered to heads of state and foreign dignitaries—during his travels Down Under. Police in New South Wales did agree to have one vehicle accompany him on game days, which FIFA has to pay for. (Read more FIFA stories.)

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