FIFA president Gianni Infantino has slammed what he described as “hypocrisy” and “racism” from countries moralizing about the World Cup in Qatar, claiming Europe should “apologise for the next 3,000 years” for past mistakes.
In an astonishing hour-long monologue opening a Saturday press conference in Doha, Infantino, who is running unopposed for re-election as FIFA president in March, took aim at critics of Qatar and FIFA by defending the treatment of migrant workers saying LGBTQ+ people are welcome and insists he is still in control of the tournament despite a last-minute stadium ban on alcohol.
“What is sad is that especially in recent weeks in some places we have given a real moral lesson, a double standard. [standards]Infantino said.
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“We are told that we have a lot of lessons to learn from some Europeans, from the Western world. I am European. I think for what we Europeans have done around the world over the last 3,000 years, we should apologize for the next 3000 years before we start giving moral lessons to people.
“How many of these European companies making millions and millions come from Qatar or other countries in the region – billions a year – how many of them have dealt with the rights of migrant workers? I have the answer: none of them, because if they change the law means less profit.
“But we did. And FIFA generated much, much, much less than all these companies from Qatar.
“We also see many government representatives from Qatar here. I don’t have to defend Qatar in any way, they can defend themselves. I defend football and injustice here.”
“If there was no gas nobody would care. But now they all come and they all want something. Who cares about the workers anyway? FIFA does that. Football does that, the World Cup does that and to be honest Qatar does the same.” good.”
Infantino questioned European immigration policy, claiming the West could learn from Qatar, which has faced repeated criticism from human rights activists over its treatment of migrant workers.
He said: “Where are we going with the way we work, guys? Where is the world going? If you go back two steps and look at the migration issue and the situation of hundreds of thousands of women and men who are eager to offer their services , who would like to help and give a future to their family back home, Qatar offers them this opportunity.
“Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, they help their families to survive. And they do it in a legal way. We in Europe close our borders and we practically do not allow workers from these countries to work legally in our country. We know all that there are many illegal workers in our European countries, and that the living conditions are not really the best either.
“Those who reach Europe, those who want to go to Europe, have to make a very difficult journey. Only a few survive. So if you really cared about the fate of these people, these young people, Europe could also do as Qatar did : create some legal channels where at least some of these workers can come to Europe, reduce the income, but give them some work, give them a future, give them some hope.
“This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t point out that it doesn’t work here in Qatar either. Of course there are things that don’t work and need to be addressed. But these moral lessons, one sided, it’s just hypocrisy.”
Infantino began his extraordinary speech by declaring “today I have very strong feelings, today I feel Qatari, today I feel Arab, today I feel African, today I feel gay, today I feel disabled, today I feel a migrant worker”. understood what it meant to be discriminated against, because “as a foreigner in a foreign country, I was bullied at school as a child because I had red hair and freckles.”
Infantino turned his attention to LGBTQ+ rights, reiterating the Qatar Supreme Committee’s insistence that everyone is welcome in the country, despite the country’s strict laws against homosexuality, which carry the death penalty in some cases.
“They have confirmed that I can confirm that everyone is welcome,” said Infantino. “If a single person here or there says the opposite, that is not the opinion of the country and certainly not the opinion of FIFA. This is a clear FIFA requirement, that everyone should be welcome.
“Anyone who comes to Qatar is welcome, regardless of religion, race, sexual orientation, belief he or she has, everyone is welcome. This was our demand and the Qatari state is adhering to that demand.
“You’ll tell me, ‘Yeah, but there are laws that prohibit, or whatever, you have to go to jail.’ Yes, this legislation exists. It exists in many countries in the world. This legislation existed in Switzerland when they hosted the World Cup in 1954. Like for the workers, these are processes.”
At the request of Qatar’s Supreme Committee, alcohol was banned in stadiums just two days before the opening game between Qatar and Ecuador on Sunday, despite long-standing promises that fans would be able to buy beer at matches.
Infantino insisted FIFA still had “200% control” of the tournament, appearing to suggest: “If this is the biggest problem we have for the World Cup, I will sign immediately and go to the beach and relax until December 18 .
James Olley summarizes a remarkable speech by FIFA President Gianni Infantino, in which he denounced the “hypocrisy” of countries criticizing Qatar.
“First let me assure you that every decision made during this World Cup is a joint decision between Qatar and FIFA. Every decision is discussed, discussed and taken jointly. There will be more than 200 places where you can buy alcohol in Qatar .”
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“More than 10 fan zones where more than 100,000 can drink alcohol at the same time. Personally, I think if you can’t drink a beer for three hours a day, you’ll be fine, especially since the same rules actually apply in France or Spain or in Portugal, or in Scotland No beer is allowed in the stadiums.
“Here it’s going to be a big thing because it’s a Muslim country. I don’t know why. We tried. It’s the one I’m giving you of course, a late policy change. But one thing is to have plans and designs and another thing is when you start running it.
“You look at the flows of the people, look at their safety going in and out, watching different matches. This is something at this World Cup that is new in that respect.”
Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s head of economic and social justice, responded to Infantino’s comments: “By brushing aside legitimate criticism of human rights, Gianni Infantino rejects the huge price migrant workers have paid to make his flagship tournament possible – as well as FIFA’s Demands for equality, dignity and compensation cannot be treated as some kind of culture war — they are universal human rights that FIFA has pledged to respect in its own statutes.
“If there is any glimmer of hope, it is that Infantino has announced that FIFA will establish a legacy fund after the World Cup. However, this cannot be mere window dressing. If FIFA wants to salvage anything from this tournament, it must announce that it will invest a significant portion of the $6 billion the organization will earn from this tournament and ensure that this fund is used to directly compensate employees and their families.