FIFA President Gianni Infantino has slammed what he called “hypocrisy” and “racism” by countries moralizing about the World Cup in Qatar, claiming Europe should apologize for past mistakes “for the next 3,000 years”.
In a stunning hour-long monologue that opened a press conference in Doha on Saturday, Infantino, who will stand unopposed for re-election as FIFA president next March, took aim at critics of Qatar and FIFA by defending the treatment of migrant workers and saying , LGBTQ+ people are welcome and insists he is still in control of the tournament despite a short-term alcohol ban at the stadium.
“It is sad that in the last few weeks we have supported a real moral, double standard lesson in some places [standards]’ said Infantino.
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“We are told to learn many lessons from some Europeans in the western world. i am european I think for what we Europeans have been doing all over the world for 3,000 years, we should apologize for the next 3,000 years before we start teaching people moral lessons.
“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 dealt with the rights of migrant workers? I have the answer: none of them because if they change the legislation it means fewer profits.
“But we did it. And FIFA generates much, much, much less than any of these Qatari companies.
“We also see a lot of Qatari government officials here. I don’t have to defend Qatar in any way, they can defend themselves. I’m defending football and injustice here.”
“If there was no petrol, nobody would care. But now they all come and they all want something. Who actually takes care of the workers? FIFA does it. Football does it, the World Cup does it and to be fair to them be, Qatar does.” Good.”
Infantino questioned European immigration policies, claiming the West could learn from Qatar, which has been repeatedly criticized by human rights activists for 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 two steps back and look at this issue of migration and the situation of hundreds of thousands of women and men who want to offer their services, help their families at home and give them a future, Qatar offers them this opportunity.
“Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, they help their families to survive. And they do it legally. We in Europe, we close our borders and we allow practically no workers from these countries to work legally in our country.. We all know that there are many undeclared workers in our European countries whose living conditions are not the best either.
“Those who reach Europe, those who want to go to Europe, have to walk a very difficult path. Few survive. So if you really care about the fate of these people, these young people, then Europe could do the same. Do like Qatar: create some legal channels through which at least a number of these workers could come to Europe, lower the revenues, but give them some work, give them a future, give them some hope.
“That doesn’t mean that 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. 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 like a migrant worker” before claiming he understood what it meant to be discriminated against because “as a foreigner in a foreign country, as a kid I was bullied at school because I had red hair and freckles”.
Speaking of LGBTQ+ rights, Infantino reiterated Qatar’s Supreme Committee’s demand that despite the country’s tough laws against homosexuality, which in some cases carry the death penalty, everyone is welcome in the country.
“You have confirmed that I can confirm that everyone is welcome,” Infantino said. “If someone says the opposite here and there, that’s not the opinion of the country and certainly not the opinion of FIFA. It is a clear requirement from FIFA that everyone should be welcome.
“Everyone who comes to Qatar is welcome, regardless of religion, race, sexual orientation, belief, everyone is welcome. This was our requirement and the Qatari state is complying with this requirement.
“You’re going to say to me, ‘Yeah, but there are laws against it or whatever, you have to go to jail.’ Yes, these laws exist. They exist in many countries around the world. These laws existed in Switzerland when they organized the World Cup in 1954. As for the workers, these are processes.”
At the request of Qatar’s Supreme Committee, alcohol was banned in stadiums just two days ahead of Sunday’s opening game between Qatar and Ecuador, despite years of promises that fans could buy beer at games.
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 until December 18th.” go to the beach and relax.
James Olley summarizes a remarkable speech by FIFA President Gianni Infantino in which he denounced the “hypocrisy” of states criticizing Qatar.
“First let me assure you that every decision that will be made at this World Cup is a joint decision between Qatar and FIFA. Every decision. It will be discussed, debated and made together. There will be over 200 places where you can buy alcohol in Qatar.”
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“Over 10 fan zones where over 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 survive, especially since in France or Spain or in Portugal or in Scotland the rules are pretty much the same as in Scotland No beer is allowed in the stadiums.
“Here it becomes a big deal because it is a Muslim country. I do not know why. We tried it. It’s what I’m giving you of course, a late change in policy. But it’s one thing to have plans and blueprints, and another thing when you start implementing them.
“You look at the flow of people, look at their safety getting in and out, going to different games. It’s something new at this World Cup in that regard.”
Responding to Infantino’s comments, Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s director of economic and social justice, said: “By brushing aside valid human rights criticism, Gianni Infantino rejects the enormous price migrant workers have to pay to make his flagship tournament possible – as well as FIFA’s demands for equality, dignity and reparation must not be treated as some sort of culture clash – they are universal human rights that FIFA has pledged to uphold in its own Statutes.
“If there is a small glimmer of hope, it is Infantino’s announcement that FIFA will set up a legacy fund after the World Cup. However, this cannot be mere window dressing. If FIFA wants to salvage something from this tournament, it has to to announce.” It will invest a significant portion of the $6 billion the organization will make from this tournament and ensure that this fund is used to compensate workers and their families directly.