Fifa President Gianni Infantino gave an extraordinary speech on the eve of the World Cup, in which he accused the West of moral hypocrisy.
In what was supposed to be a 45-minute Q&A with the media in Doha ahead of Sunday’s opening game, Infantino delivered a rambling monologue that lasted nearly an hour, in which he staunchly defended Qatar’s migrant labor policies and denounced those who said they were “paid fake fans.” “. ‘ in Qatar as racist.
The preparation for the World Cup has been marred by the treatment of LGBTQ+ people and the deaths of migrant workers, but Infantino said critics were in no position “to teach people moral lessons”.
Infantino said: “Today I have strong feelings. Today I feel Qatari, I feel Arab, I feel African, I feel gay, I feel disabled, I feel migrant.
“Of course I’m not Qatari, I’m not Arab, I’m not African, I’m not gay, I’m not disabled. But I feel like it because I know what it means to be discriminated against, to be bullied, as a foreigner in a foreign country. I was bullied as a kid – because I had red hair and freckles, plus I was Italian, imagine that. I went to my room and cried
“I feel for the staff of FIFA and the Supreme Committee. They want to deliver here. I’m proud to have this FIFA mark on my jacket. It’s going to be the best World Cup ever. Qatar is ready.”
“Hundreds of thousands of women and men from developing countries who want to offer their services abroad to help their families at home and give them a future. Qatar actually offers them this opportunity. They come here and earn ten times more than what they earn in their home country.
“For what we Europeans have done around the world for the last 3,000 years, we should apologize for the next 3,000 years before we start teaching people moral lessons.
“How many of these European or Western business corporations making millions from Qatar, billions, how many of them have raised the rights of migrant workers with the authorities?
“None of them because if you change the legislation it means less profit. But we did it and FIFA makes a lot less than any of these Qatari companies.”
Infantino also responded to reports from fans who were paid to support various nations at the World Cup.
“The world is divided enough, we are organizing a World Cup, not a war,” he said. “We organize a World Cup where people who have a lot of problems come and want to have fun. Look at the city, it’s beautiful. People like to party.
“They were happy when the teams come and they go to see them and what am I reading? These people don’t look English, they shouldn’t be cheering for England because they look like Indians. What is that?
“Can’t someone who looks like an Indian cheer for England, Spain or Germany? You know what that is. That’s racism, that’s pure racism, wanting.”
“This World Cup underlines how dirty the game is”
Sky Sports News senior reporter Melissa Reddy in Qatar:
“What absurd, insulting, misleading thing did he not say? This is extraordinary and unlike anything I’ve ever heard before.
“You don’t know how it feels to be gay Infantino, you don’t know how it feels to be disabled, you don’t know how it feels to be African and you can’t sum it up, because red hair and freckles to any of the groups you referred to have had experiences of being discriminated against. You cannot negate their experience simply by saying that you “feel” what they feel.
“It’s an absolutely amazing speech by the FIFA President and it’s probably even more amazing that after being able to say things like this he is being re-elected unopposed. He also took away the fact that Qatar recruits from the world’s poorest countries. Millions who have nothing and make them do what human rights groups call modern slavery, he says is fine because they’re paid more than they would at home.
“This is misleading, disrespectful, insulting, it is damaging to try to get better rights and better conditions for these workers to try to improve the human rights situation here.
“He’s talking about hypocrisy, I don’t think Infantino is the man to talk about hypocrisy. I don’t think whataboutism is the right way for a FIFA President to try to push change.
“If we all cling to what happened before or what is going on elsewhere and we have to remain silent because of it, we will never bring about effective change. All of us would just never say anything because no country is untouched and unsullied, but we’re here for the World Cup and on the eve of the tournament we get this.
“He says it will be the best World Cup in history. I think this will be the World Cup that really shows how dirty the game is.”
“Infantino spoke almost like Trump”
Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol in Qatar:
“It was a very bizarre performance by Gianni Infantino. Some of the things he said were absolutely ridiculous, and at times it seemed like he almost developed a messiah complex. The problem with FIFA Presidents is that they fly around the world, meet a lot of heads of state and after a while they start thinking and acting as if they were heads of state too.
“I felt today that he spoke almost as if he were Donald Trump. Some of what he brought out was divide and domination, it almost seemed like he was trying to stoke tensions between Europe and the rest of the world.
“If people in this room, 400 journalists, had we had microphones, we would have interrupted him during the speech to correct some of the untruths he made up. I’ve seen some extraordinary press conferences in my time and this was one of the most extraordinary I’ve ever seen.
“It is insulting for a FIFA President to say on the eve of a World Cup that he feels like a migrant worker when we know that many of the migrant workers who built the stadiums and infrastructure paid just £1, often a Working hours and living in absolutely horrible conditions, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“It is offensive to compare school bullying to living and working in the conditions some of the migrant workers have had to live and work in Qatar for the past 12 years.
“He started off by saying, ‘Today I feel gay’. That’s offensive when you’re in a country where being gay is against the law, it’s criminalized and FIFA has decided to move the World Cup here bring when she always tells us football.” is for everyone.”
“Football fans must tune in to FIFA”
The Times senior football writer Henry Winter on Sky News:
After beer U-turn and Infantino’s comments, has FIFA lost control of the World Cup? “Absolutely. I feel for the fans who go to the game and want to have a drink. There is an additional logistical issue that the Qataris obviously haven’t thought through as the fans stay in the fan park where they can have a drink.” after 7pm and then they will rush to the ground so there might be problems if they are all late.
“Infantino should go straight to the West End for pantomime season with some of the stuff he comes up with. He’s trying journalists from all over the world, we’re thick skinned, we can handle that, but it’s so offensive to the football fans, the real fans who come in the tens of thousands to this great event and are treated like that.
“The football fans need to tease FIFA in their ranks, tease the sponsors and tease the Qataris.”
“FIFA is an inclusive organization”
At the end of the press conference, FIFA Director of Media Relations Bryan Swanson said:
“I’ve seen a lot of criticism from Gianni Infantino since I joined FIFA, especially from the LGBTQ+ community. I sit here in a privileged position on a global stage as a gay man here in Qatar.
“We received assurances that everyone is welcome and I believe everyone will be welcome at this World Cup.
“Just because Gianni Infantino isn’t gay doesn’t mean he doesn’t care, he does care. You see the public side, I see the private side and we’ve talked about it on a number of occasions. I have thought long and hard about mentioning this at this press conference, but it is very important to me.
“We at FIFA care about everyone, we are an inclusive organisation. I have a number of gay colleagues so here as I sit here I am fully aware of the debate and fully respect everyone’s right and opinion to think differently, I understand. But I also know what we stand for, and when he says we’re inclusive, he means it.”