FIFA President Gianni Infantino said he felt “Arab, gay and migrant worker” in Doha on Saturday at a packed press conference on the eve of the opening of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, in which he criticized the “hypocrisy” and “moral lessons” of Western countries.
“Today I feel Qatari, today I feel Arab, today I feel African, today I feel gay, today I feel disabled, today I feel like a migrant worker,” he said at the beginning of his speech, which lasted exactly one hour, in which he also denounced the lessons of “double standards” received in recent weeks.
Soccer Football – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – FIFA President Press Conference – Main Media Center, Doha, Qatar – November 19, 2022 FIFA president Gianni Infantino during a press conference REUTERS/Matthew Childs
He added: “This reminds me of my personal story because I am the son of migrant workers. I know what it means to be discriminated against, to be harassed as a foreigner. As a child I was discriminated against because I had red hair, because I had freckles, I was Italian, I spoke German badly.”
“What is happening right now is deeply unfair,” he told about 400 reporters in the spectacular amphitheater of the World Cup press center.
‘Exaggerated criticism of Qatar’
“Criticism of the World Cup is hypocritical. For what we Europeans have done for the last 3,000 years we should be asking forgiveness for the next 3,000 before giving moral lessons to others. These moral lessons are simply hypocrisy,” he insisted.
The leader recalled the articles that appeared in Spain, England or France in which Asian fans were described as “false fans” for supporting the great powers in the days before the World Cup.
“This is pure racism, everyone in the world has the right to support the team they want,” he said.
The Qatari authorities are being targeted by international organizations for the treatment of hundreds of thousands of workers arriving mainly from Asia to build the infrastructure of the World Cup.
Infantino said FIFA was one of the few players concerned about working conditions.
“Among the big companies making billions in Qatar, how many have worried about the fate of migrant workers? None, because a change in legislation means less revenue. We have done it,” he said. “Why doesn’t anyone recognize this progress?”
Qatar and the treatment of the LGBTIQ+ community
In addition, homosexuality is illegal in this Gulf country, but World Cup organizers have tried to calm the situation by ensuring that gay couples will not be disturbed during the tournament.
On LGBTQ+ rights, the leader said that the Qatari authorities had given the guarantee that “everyone will be welcome” during the tournament. “If someone says otherwise, it’s not the country’s opinion and it’s not FIFA’s opinion.”
On Friday, the emirate authorities announced that the sale of beer will be banned in the vicinity of the stadiums, contrary to what had been claimed two months ago.
“I personally think that you can survive without drinking beer for three hours, which is already happening in France, Spain and Scotland,” said the Italian-Swiss.
Beer will continue to be available in stadium VIP boxes, in ‘Fan Zones’ (places to meet and follow matches) and in some hotel and restaurant bars.