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Report: FIFA president leaves World Cup after less than one week

FIFA president Gianni Infantino takes in the World Cup group-stage match between the USWNT and Vietnam on July 22. (Phil Walter/Getty Images)

FIFA president Gianni Infantino reportedly has left the building.

Infantino departed the Women’s World Cup less than one week into the tournament to return to Tahiti, Sky News reported. He had departed the island on July 17 to attend the start of the tournament in New Zealand, where he stayed for eight days before returning to Tahiti on July 25, as reported by Sky News based on the movements of a private jet used by the FIFA president.

After attending every match of the 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar, Infantino already has missed four match days at the 2023 women’s tournament. And while he attended matches on the first five days of the tournament in New Zealand, he has yet to attend a match in Australia.

As ticket sales in New Zealand lagged relative to Australia, he urged fans to buy in, saying: “It’s never too late to do the right thing. Come to watch the matches.”

In contrast, Infantino attended all 64 matches at the 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar, calling it a “privilege and pleasure” at one point during the tournament. He also largely was based out of that country in the year before the tournament “in order to deliver his presidential duties and be closer to the FIFA World Cup,” FIFA said at the time.

The FIFA president has not visited Australia since the country was awarded hosting rights with New Zealand in 2020, Sky News reported.

So far, he has seen just 12 teams from the expanded 32-team field. While FIFA has told Sky News that Infantino will return to the World Cup for group-stage games in Australia, it did not say when.

Previously, Infantino had called for this summer’s World Cup to be given the same amount of respect as the men’s tournament when broadcasters did not offer what FIFA considered reasonable money for the television rights to the tournament. He also has championed this as the “best-attended” Women’s World Cup.

Additionally, he referred to 2023 as “the year of women” on Instagram and wrote that “the future belongs to women.”