FIFA boss Gianni Infantino slams World Cup critics in bizarre speech: ‘I feel Qatari, I feel Arab, I feel gay’
FIFA president Gianni Infantino spoke of “hypocrisy” from the west regarding the 2022 World Cup which is set to kick-off in Qatar on Sunday. The global soccer governing body chief delivered an astonishing monologue in Doha on the eve of the event to defend the Arab nation in the face of significant early scrutiny.
“Today I have strong feelings,” said Infantino. “Today I feel Qatari, I feel Arab, I feel African, I feel gay, I feel disabled, I feel a migrant worker. We have been taught many lessons from Europeans and the Western world. I am European. For what we have been doing for 3,000 years around the world, we should be apologizing for the next 3,000 years before giving moral lessons. If Europe really care about the destiny of these people, they can create legal channels as Qatar did where a number of these workers can come to Europe to work. Give them some future, some hope.”
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This winter World Cup has been set against a backdrop of numerous issues in Qatar, notably the deaths of migrant workers and the status and treatment of people identified as LGBTQ. Infantino accused European nations over historical acts instead of addressing the migrant work topic.
“I have difficulties understanding the criticism,” said Swiss-born Infantino. “We must invest in helping these people, in education and to give them a better future and more hope. We should all educate ourselves. Many things are not perfect, but reform and change needs time. This one-sided moral lesson is just hypocrisy. I wonder why no one recognizes the progress made here since 2016. It is not easy to take the critics of a decision that was made 12 years ago. Qatar is ready, it will be the best World Cup ever.”
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The number of migrant worker deaths is disputed with figures believed to be much higher than the 37 claimed by the Qatari government. Infantino said that the 2022 World Cup Legacy Fund will go toward education and helping 25 million women and children and India before likening the criticism of Qatar to bullying he suffered as a child.
“I do not have to defend Qatar,” he said. “They can defend themselves. I defend football. Qatar has made progress and I feel many other things as well. Of course, I am not Qatari, Arab, African, gay, disabled or a migrant worker. But I feel like them because I know what it means to be discriminated and bullied as a foreigner in a foreign country. As a child I was bullied because I had red hair and freckles — I was bullied for that.”
FIFA also changed their policy and announced that no alcohol will be served at any of the eight World Cup venues just two days before the start of the tournament. Despite strict laws controlling the sale of alcohol in Qatar, there were supposed to be “select stadium areas” for its consumption. Alcohol can still be purchased in corporate areas of tournament stadiums.
“If this is our biggest issue for the World Cup then I will resign immediately and go to the beach to relax,” said Infantino. “Let me first assure you that every decision taken at this World Cup is a joint decision between Qatar and FIFA. There will be many fan zones where you can buy alcohol in Qatar and fans can simultaneously drink alcohol. I think if for three hours a day you cannot drink a beer, you will survive. Especially because the same rules apply in France, Spain, Portugal, and Scotland. Here, has it become a big thing because it is a Muslim country? I do not know why. We tried and that is why I give you the late change of policy. We tried to see if it was possible.”
Hosts Qatar face Ecuador in the World Cup opener at Al Bayt Stadium this Sunday at 10 a.m. ET.