State of denial

Two weeks ago the UEFA congress elected Alexey Sorokin onto FIFA’s governing council. His first statement was to deny the well documented use of North Korean slave labour to construct the stadiums for next year’s World Cup. By Pål Ødegård At the extraordinary UEFA congress in Geneva the 19th of September, Alexey Sorokin filled the last European spot on the FIFA Council. Running unopposed for one of the most powerful positions in world football, the 55 members of UEFA didn’t even bother to vote, and instead marked the event with a unanimous round of applause. On the subsequent press conference UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin stated that “all the members of UEFA wanted Sorokin as FIFA council member” and added that his election “was in the interest of UEFA.” Alexey Sorokin, CEO of Russia World Cup 2018 local organizing committee, replaced Vitaly Mutko, who failed an eligibility check applying for the FIFA Council seat. Mutko, widely reported to have orchestrated a state-sponsored doping programme which also included professional football players, himself selected Sorokin to replace him as candidate. One of Sorokin’s very first statements after being confirmed as FIFA Council member gave little doubt that the controversy surrounding Russia’s World Cup won’t go away after Mutko. Asked by Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet on the status of the issue about North Koreans being used to construct the stadiums for next year’s World Cup, Sorokin answered with a straight face: “We’ve made our own investigations, and we found no proof that any North Koreans have worked on any of our stadiums. We looked for them, but we just couldn’t find anyone.” Sorokin’s contradictory statement The statement contradicts confirmation from FIFA itself that North Koreans not only were working on Zenit Arena in St Petersburg, but that they did so while in slave-like conditions. In February, this magazine revealed that at le...

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