FIFA President Gianni Infantino has denounced what he called ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘racism’ from countries moralizing about the Qatar World Cup and claimed Europe should “apologize for the next 3,000 years” for past mistakes.
In a stunning hour-long monologue that opened a press conference in Doha on Saturday, Infantino, who will run unopposed for re-election as FIFA president next March, took aim at criticism from Qatar and China. FIFA in defending the treatment of migrant workers, declaring LGBTQ+ people welcome and insisting it was still in control of the tournament despite a last-minute stadium ban on alcohol.
“What is sad is that especially in recent weeks, we are witnessing in some places a real lesson in morality, double morality [standards]”, Infantino said.
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“We are told to learn many lessons from some Europeans, from the Western world. I am European. I think for what we Europeans have been doing for 3,000 years in the world, we should apologize for the next 3,000 years before you start giving moral lessons to people.
“How many of these European companies that make millions and millions from Qatar or other countries in the region — billions every year — how many of them have addressed the rights of migrant workers? I have the answer : none of them because if they change the legislation, it means less profit.
“But we did. And FIFA generated much, much, much less than any of these companies, from Qatar.
“We see many government officials here as well from Qatar. I don’t have to defend Qatar in any way, they can defend themselves. I defend football here and injustice.
“If there was no petrol, nobody would care. But now they all come and they all want something. Who really cares about the workers? FIFA yes. Football yes, the Cup of the world yes and to be fair to them, Qatar fine.”
Infantino questioned European immigration policy and said 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 our way of working, guys? Where is the world going? If you take a step back and look at this issue of migration and their situation of hundreds of thousands of women and men who offer their services who would like to help and give a future to their families back home, Qatar actually provides that opportunity.
“Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, they help their families to survive. And they do it in a legal way. We in Europe, we close our borders and we hardly allow any workers from these countries to work legally in our country. – We all know that there are many illegal workers in our European countries, living conditions which are not really the best.
“Those who arrive in Europe, those who want to go to Europe, they have to go through a very difficult journey. Only a few survive. So if you really care about the fate of these people, these young people, then Europe could also do like Qatar: create legal channels where at least some of these workers could come to Europe, lower the income, but give them work, give them a future, give them some hope .
“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t report that it’s not working here in Qatar as well. Of course, there are things that aren’t working and need to be addressed. But this moral lesson giving, one-way, It’s just hypocrisy.”
Infantino began his extraordinary speech by stating “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 handicapped, today I feel like a migrant worker” before claiming that he understood what it meant to be a victim of discrimination because “as a foreigner in a foreign country, as a child at school I was bullied because I had red hair and freckles.”
Turning his attention to LGBTQ+ rights, Infantino repeated Qatar’s Supreme Committee’s insistence that everyone is welcome in the country despite the country’s strict laws against homosexuality, which in some cases carry the death penalty. .
“They have confirmed that I can confirm that everyone is welcome,” Infantino said. “If the strange person here or there says otherwise, that is not the opinion of the country and it is certainly not the opinion of FIFA. It is a clear requirement of FIFA, that everyone everyone is welcome.
“Anyone who comes to Qatar is welcome, regardless of their religion, race, sexual orientation, beliefs, everyone is welcome. This was our requirement and the Qatari state is sticking to this requirement.
“You will say to me: ‘Yes, but there are laws that prohibit that, or anything, from going to prison.’ Yes, these laws exist. They exist in many countries of the world. These laws existed in Switzerland when they organized the World Cup in 1954. As with workers, these are processes.
At the request of Qatar’s Supreme Committee, alcohol was banned in stadiums just two days before Sunday’s opener between Qatar and Ecuador despite years of promises that fans could buy beer during matches.
Infantino insisted FIFA was still ‘200%’ in control of the tournament and appeared 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.
“Let me first assure you that every decision taken at this World Cup is a joint decision between Qatar and FIFA. Every decision. It is discussed, debated and taken jointly. There will be more than 200 places where you can buy alcohol in Qatar.
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“More than 10 fanzones where more than 100,000 people can drink alcohol simultaneously. I personally think that if for three hours a day you cannot drink a beer, you will survive, especially because in fact the same rules are apply in France or in Spain or in Portugal, or in Scotland No beer is authorized in the stadiums.
“Here it becomes a big thing because it’s a Muslim country. I don’t know why. We tried. This is the one I give you of course, a late change in policy. Because we tried until But it’s one thing to have plans and designs and another thing to start putting them in place.
“You watch the flows of people, watch their security coming in and out, going to different matches. That’s something in this World Cup that’s new in that regard.”
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