FIFA World Cup Turns Down Zelenskyy Pitch to Call for World Peace at Sunday’s Final (Report)

The media-savvy Ukrainian president is still negotiating in hopes of speaking to the massive international audience

Volodymyr Zelenskyy Ukraine Cannes 2022
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FIFA has turned down Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s request to share a message about world peace to the global audience that will watch the World Cup final on Sunday, CNN reported Friday.

Zelenskyy, who last week was named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” for his leadership following Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine, offered to appear in a video link to speak with fans at the stadium in Qatar where France will face off against Argentina, CNN said, citing an unidentified source.

It wasn’t clear if the video was meant to be taped or a livestream, but international soccer’s government body turned down the offer.

“We thought FIFA wanted to use its platform for the greater good,” the source told CNN.

The news network said talks are continuing, but FIFA did not respond to a request for comment.

A former actor and comedian, Zelenskyy was elected as Ukraine’s president in 2019 and has received international praise for his steadfast defense of the country and his use of both mainstream media and social media to get his message out.

He famously turned down an offer from the U.S. to get him out of the country as the capital Kyiv was threatened early in the war, winning hearts as he stated, “I don’t need a ride, I need more ammunition.”

Since the start of the war, the president has appeared via video at a variety of political and cultural events, from the Grammys to the Cannes Film Festival to an interview with David Letterman’s “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” Netflix series, and from the Group of 20 Nations summit to the United Nations General Assembly.

He has also made masterful use of social media, posting across multiple platforms nightly and sometimes twice-daily videos, often featuring him wearing an Army-green t-shirt that’s become his signature garb, sharing news from the front, inspiration messages for troops and Ukranian residents and thanks and entreaties to supporters around the world.

FIFA has made extreme efforts to keep politics out of the World Cup, CNN noted, including threatening sanctions for any player who wore “OneLove” armbands that feature a striped heart in different colors to represent all heritages, backgrounds, genders and sexual identities.

Grant Wahl, a famed soccer reporter from the U.S. who died suddenly from a ruptured aortic aneurysm while covering the World Cup, had publicly criticized host Qatar over its repressive anti-gay policies and its cruel treatment of the migrant workers who built the stadiums where the tournament has been played. He made headlines in the midst of the tournament when he was denied entrance to a match while wearing a rainbow shirt in support of the LGBTQ community.

At a news conference Friday, FIFA boss Gianni Infantino said it had stopped some “political statements” in Qatar because it has to “take care of everyone.”

“We are a global organization and we don’t discriminate against anyone,” Infantino said. “We are defending values, we are defending human rights and rights of everyone at the World Cup. Those fans and the billions watching on TV, they have their own problems. They just want to watch 90 or 120 minutes without having to think about anything, but just enjoying a little moment of pleasure and joy. We have to give them a moment when they can forget about their problems and enjoy football.”