On the eve of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, FIFA President Gianni Infantino launched a tirade against Western critics of the controversial tournament in an explosive hour-long monologue.
Infantino, the boss of world football’s governing body, looked on sullenly as he addressed hundreds of reporters in Doha, Qatar on Saturday.
“We are taught many lessons from the Europeans, from the Western world,” he said, referring to criticism of Qatar’s human rights record.
“What we Europeans have been doing for 3,000 years, we should apologize for for the next 3,000 years before we start giving moral lessons.”
Despite kicking off the opener on November 20, Infantino barely talked about football and focused his attention on what he called the “hypocrisy” of Western criticism.
In a remarkable press conference, Infantino looked exhausted. He spent a lot of time defending FIFA’s decision in 2010 to award the World Cup to Qatar. A controversial decision taken when he was not president of the governing body.
This tournament will be a historic event, the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East, but it is also mired in controversy, with much of the buildup focusing on human rights, from the death of migrant workers and the conditions many have endured in Qatar, LGBTQ and women’s rights.
Infantino, while admitting things weren’t perfect, said some criticism was “deeply unfair” and accused the West of double standards.
The Italian opened the press conference by speaking for an hour, telling reporters he knew what it was like to be discriminated against, saying he had been bullied as a child for having red hair and freckles.
“Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. I feel like a migrant worker,” he declared to a dumbfounded audience.
“I feel that, all that, because what I saw and what I was told, since I don’t read, otherwise I would be depressed I think.
“What I saw brings me back to my personal story. I am a son of migrant workers. My parents worked very, very hard in difficult situations.
Infantino said progress had been made in Qatar on a range of issues but insisted real change took time, adding that FIFA would not leave the country after the tournament was over. He hinted that he thought some Western journalists would overlook the issues.
“We need to invest in education, to give them a better future, to give them hope. We should all educate ourselves,” he said.
“Reform and change take time. It took hundreds of years in our European countries. It takes time everywhere, the only way to get results is to commit […] not shouting.
Infantino also answered questions about the last-minute decision to ban the sale of alcohol at the eight stadiums that will host the tournament’s 64 matches. In a FIFA statement released on Friday, the governing body said alcohol would be sold at fan zones and licensed venues.
The Muslim country is considered very conservative and tightly regulates alcohol sales and consumption.
In September, Qatar said it would allow ticketed fans to buy alcoholic beer at World Cup stadiums three hours before kick-off and for one hour after the final whistle. , but not during the game.
“Let me first assure you that every decision taken at this World Cup is a joint decision between Qatar and FIFA,” he said. “Every decision is discussed, debated and taken together.”
“There will be […] more than 200 alcohol outlets in Qatar and more than 10 fan zones, where more than 100,000 people can simultaneously drink alcohol.
“I personally think that if for three hours a day you cannot drink a beer, you will survive.”
“Especially because in fact the same rules apply in France or Spain or Portugal or Scotland, where beer is no longer allowed in stadiums anymore,” he added.
“It seems to become a big thing because it’s a Muslim country, or I don’t know why.”
Infantino ended the press conference by insisting everyone would be safe in Qatar amid concerns from the LGBTQ community.
Homosexuality in Qatar is illegal and punishable by three years in prison, but the FIFA president has promised that this is a tournament for everyone.
“Let me also mention the LGBT situation. I have spoken about this subject with the most senior leaders of the country several times, not only once. They confirmed, and I can confirm, everyone is welcome,” Infantino said.
“It is a clear requirement of FIFA. Everyone must be welcome, everyone who comes to Qatar is welcome regardless of their religion, race, sexual orientation, beliefs. Everyone is the This was our demand and the Qatari state is sticking to this demand,” Infantino said.