FIFA President Gianni Infantino has attacked critics of the World Cup in Qatar, accusing European countries of “hypocrisy” and saying they are unable to teach “moral lessons”.
In a hawkish 90-minute press conference on the eve of the World Cup in Doha, Infantino said much of the criticism of the tournament’s hosts was “deeply unjust” as the Western world was guilty of double standards.
“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 giving moral lessons,” he said.
Europe has been at the forefront of criticism in the run-up to the tournament, with some national football associations joining calls for a compensation fund for the families of workers who died or were injured during construction work leading up to the tournament.
A number of teams also plan to wear rainbow armbands during games to send a message of inclusion to the world. Homosexuality remains illegal in Qatar, but Fifa has assured fans “everyone is welcome”.
Infantino, 52, railed against those who have focused on Qatar’s human rights record, its treatment of foreign workers and its laws regulating homosexuality – rather than the progress made in the tiny Gulf state. He went on to criticize Western immigration policies, saying thousands had died trying to cross to Europe in search of a better life.
“Why is nobody demanding compensation for the families of these migrants who have died? Maybe their lives aren’t worth the same,” he said. “Qatar actually offers them these opportunities. . . in Europe we are closing our borders.”
Infantino began the session with an hour-long monologue in which he compared his own life experience to that of migrant workers in Qatar and to gay people around the world.
“Today I feel like a Qatari. Today I feel Arabic. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel handicapped. Today I feel like a migrant worker,” he said. “I feel like them because I know what it means to be discriminated against [against], be bullied. As a kid at school, I was bullied at school because I had red hair.”
The Fifa president, who took over the top post after Sepp Blatter left office early in 2016, also pointed the finger at multinationals, saying they could have freely done business with Qatar for years without being called upon to respond to social changes to urge.
“These European and Western business corporations that make millions and millions – billions – every year from Qatar and other countries in the region, how many of them have dealt with the rights of migrant workers? None of those. . . because changing the legislation means less profit,” he said. “Who actually takes care of the workers? Fifa does. Football does.”
Foreign governments are also guilty of turning a blind eye to moral issues, he said. “A country that only had sand and pearls in the sea, well actually they found something worth a lot more – that’s gasoline. If there was no gasoline, no one would care. Now they all come and they all want something.”
Infantino, who is set to be re-elected unopposed for another term as Fifa boss next year, has chastised sections of the media for the relentless negative coverage of Qatar’s preparations. Fans, he said, would rather read about the sport.
“The magic of football – as soon as the ball rolls, people will focus on it because that’s what people want,” he said.
Asked if it was right that Iran was still participating in the World Cup while protesters were being subjected to brutal crackdowns by the authorities, Infantino said it was not up to Fifa to make sweeping moral judgments about entire countries.
“It’s not two regimes playing against each other,” he said. “There are 80 million people in Iran. Do you think they’re all bad? Do you think they are all monsters? I do not think so.”
https://www.ft.com/content/e620c549-558b-425e-a9d1-fe83376362fb FIFA boss accuses Qatar’s western critics of “hypocrisy”.