FIFA’s Infantino criticises ‘moral lessons’ of World Cup detractors
Speaking to reporters on the eve of the football tournament, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said criticism of Qatar 2022 by Europeans was nothing but hypocrisy.
Infantino began a press conference in Doha on Saturday with an hour-long monologue in which he evoked his sympathies for various groups of people, including migrant workers.
“Today I feel Qatari,” he said. “Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel [like] a migrant worker.”
He then said he knew what it was like to be discriminated against as a foreigner.
“As a child I was bullied, because I had red hair and freckles, plus I was Italian, so imagine,” said Infantino, who grew up in German-speaking Switzerland and now lives in Qatar.
Host Qatar has been criticized for its treatment of migrant workers and restrictions on LGBTQ rights. Infantino, however, said FIFA was among the few that cared about the fate of migrants: the Zurich-based organisation had helped Qatar with labour reforms, such as introducing a minimum wage and protecting workers from labouring in extreme heat.
"Why doesn't anyone recognise this progress?" he asked.
“Hundreds of thousands of workers come and earn [in Qatar] – they earn ten times more than in their own countries, and they help their families survive,” he added.
Europeans, on the other hand, did not care about migrants, thousands of whom have died trying to reach the continent, Infantino pointed out.
"For everything we Europeans have done for 3,000 years, we should apologise for the next 3,000 years before we start giving moral lessons to people," he said.
‘Everyone is welcome’
As for LGBTQ rights, the FIFA head, who has been at the helm of the sports body since 2016 and is the sole candidate for election in 2023, said he had the assurances of Qatari authorities that “everyone is welcome” during the tournament, which starts on Sunday. Homosexuality is banned in the Gulf state.
He then addressed the last-minute decision by authorities to ban the sale of alcohol in stadiums.
“If this is the biggest issue we have for the World Cup, then I will resign immediately and go to the beach to relax,” he said, noting that Qatar and FIFA have set up fan zones where visitors can buy alcohol.
“I think if for three hours a day you cannot drink a beer, you will survive,” Infantino added.
Before ending the press conference, the FIFA director of media relations, Bryan Swanson, took the floor to back up his boss on LGBTQ rights.
“I am sitting here as a gay man in Qatar,” he said. “We have received assurances that everyone will be welcome and I believe everyone will be.”
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