OSLO: FIFA’s toxic image has claimed another casualty with the Nobel Peace Centre following Interpol in calling a halt to its partnership with the embattled world football federation writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

For the past three years president Sepp Blatter has exhorted his listeners at almost every occasion and every press conference to share the Handshake of Peace.

Zambia FA president Kalusha Bwalya shares FIFA's first Handshake for Peace with Bente Erichsen in Budapest in 2012

However events in Zurich over the last three weeks have persuaded the Nobel Peace Centre that FIFA, with senior officials facing corruption charges in the United States, is not an appropriate partner with which to share the moral high ground.

To FIFA’s express and irritated disappointment, a statement from the Peace Centre acknowledged the positive symbolism of the Handshake for Peace but urged the Norwegian football federation to come up with a different promotional context and/or partner.

Executive director Bente Erichsen said: “We still have faith in the idea behind Handshake for Peace and would wish that the initiative will live on.”

Partnership launch

Erichsen took a leading role when the Nobel Centre and FIFA launched the Handshake partnership during the federation’s congress in Budapest in 2012.

Then she envisaged the agreement as the “start of a close and solid relationship, with huge potential.” She added: “I’m sure this partnership can contribute to the good of the game and develop respect.”

Clearly the sense of respect has been tainted by recent events.

Blatter had wanted to enforce not only a handshake before kickoff between referee and team captains but again at the centre of the pitch at the final whistle.

His grandiose vision for the handshake was exemplified in his suggestion that it “should be an example not only in football but throughout our entire society.”

In a further prospective blow for FIFA and Blatter a judge in New York allowed an appeal from media organisations to unseal the content of the plea bargain deal agreed between the US Justice Department and corruption whistleblower Chuck Blazer.

Back in Switzerland federal prosecutor Michael Lauber, from the office of the Attorney-Generalm has said he will issue a statement on Wednesday in Bern about his criminal investigation of FIFA’s 2018 and 2022 World Cup bid scandal.

Nobel Peace Centre statement:

The board of the Nobel Peace Centre has today considered the matter on the Centre’s cooperation with the Norwegian Football Association and FIFA about Handshake for Peace and decided the following:

“The board asks the administration to end the cooperation with FIFA as soon as appropriate. The board also requests that the administration engage in dialogue with the Norwegian Football Association with a view to continuing the Handshake for Peace in a good way.”

This does not mean that the agreement with FIFA is terminated immediately but that it is now starting a dialogue about a cessation of co-operation from Nobel Peace Centre.

FIFA statement:

We are disappointed to have learned from the media about the Nobel Peace Center’s intent to terminate the cooperation with FIFA on the Handshake for Peace initiative. FIFA is reluctant to accept this unilateral approach on what is a joint initiative between the football community and the Nobel Peace Center (NPC). This action does not embody the spirit of fair play especially as it obstructs the promotion of the key values of peace-building and anti-discrimination.

NPC ceo Bente Erichsen stressed in a telephone conversation with FIFA President Blatter this morning that the NPC continued to believe in this initiative and hoped it would live on in football with FIFA.

In 2012, the 209 member associations at the FIFA Congress decided to implement and promote the initiative and this commitment was reconfirmed at the 65th Congress last month. It is important to clarify that Handshake for Peace represents an agreement between the NPC and the global football community.

Over the past few months, FIFA, the Norwegian Football Association and the Nobel Peace Center have had ongoing discussions on how best to proceed with this important initiative. And these discussions continue.

The Handshake for Peace will remain as an integral part of the match protocol at the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand and the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada as scheduled and at future competitions.  

The Handshake for Peace initiative combines football’s international reach with the simple gesture of a handshake to promote peace and fair play. At FIFA’s tournaments players and officials use the Handshake for Peace to set a good example in front of both the fans inside the stadium and the wider public watching games on television.

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