The row over FIFA’s controversial letter to all World Cup nations escalated after South American football chiefs backed calls for teams not to use the tournament as a stage to protest against hosts Qatar.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino and general secretary Fatma Samoura signed a letter that was been sent to all 32 participating nations asking for everyone involved to stick to speaking about football once the tournament starts amid the huge backdrop of ill-feeling towards the competition’s hosts.
The build-up, which begins on November 20, has been overshadowed by a raft of social issues surrounding Qatar’s human rights record.
Thousands of migrant workers are alleged to have died whilst building the infrastructure for the tournament, while homosexuality is banned in Qatar.
England reacted with frustration to news of the letter over the weekend, releasing a combined statement alongside other nine other UEFA nations including Holland, Germany and Wales, in which they vowed to ‘continue to support the momentum for positive and progressive change’.
But on Monday CONMEBOL, the governing body for South American football, threw their weight behind FIFA’s letter.
A statement read: ‘CONMEBOL and its 10 member associations join the call for world football unity in support of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. A country eager to show its hospitality and warmth, magnificent sports venues and 32 prepared teams with their greatest potential.
‘As a few times in history, human society today needs the powerful message of sport in general and football, the most popular of them, in particular.
‘This message is powerful because it is universal, it goes far beyond political or ideological disputes, temporary disagreements and occasional confrontations. It is a message full of optimism, tolerance, inclusion, diversity, union.
‘The time has come to leave controversies behind and value and enjoy a true universal party, eagerly awaited by the entire planet.’
The Asian Football Confederation released a similar statement supporting FIFA’s stance on Sunday.
Footballing nations around the world are under enormous pressure to use the tournament to highlight the issues that have shrouded the lead up to the World Cup.