FIFA chief accuses Qatar’s Western critics of ‘hypocrisy’
Fifa President Gianni Infantino has blasted critics of Qatar’s World Cup, accusing European countries of hypocrisy and saying they were unable to teach moral lessons.
In a combative 90-minute press conference on the eve of the World Cup in Doha, Infantino said much of the criticism leveled at the tournament hosts was ‘deeply unfair’ with the western world guilty of doubles standards.
“For what we Europeans have done for the past 3,000 years in the world, 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 ahead of the tournament, with some national football associations joining calls for a compensation fund for the families of workers killed or injured during construction work before the tournament.
A number of teams are also planning to wear rainbow captain’s armbands during games to send a pro-inclusion message to the world. Homosexuality remains illegal in Qatar, but Fifa has assured fans that “everyone is welcome”.
Infantino, 52, railed against those who have focused on Qatar’s human rights record, treatment of foreign labor and its laws governing homosexuality – rather than the progress made in the small Gulf state. He went on to criticize Western immigration policies, saying thousands of people had died trying to reach Europe in search of a better life.
“Why is no one asking for compensation for the families of these deceased migrants? Maybe their life is not worth the same,” he said. “Qatar actually gives them those opportunities. . . in Europe, we close our borders.
“Give them a future. Give them some hope. But this one-sided, giving moral lesson is just hypocrisy,” he said.
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 gay people around the world.
“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 said.
“I feel like them because I know what it means to be discriminated against [against], be harassed. When I was a kid in school, I was bullied at school because I had red hair.
The Fifa president, who took the top job after Sepp Blatter left office early in 2016, also pointed the finger at multinationals, saying they had been free to do business with Qatar for years. years without being asked to push for social change.
“These European and Western companies, which earn millions and millions every year – billions – from Qatar and other countries in the region, how many of them have addressed the rights of migrant workers? None of them . . . because changing the legislation means less profit,” he said. “Who really cares about the workers? FIFA does. Soccer yes.
Foreign governments are also guilty of turning a blind eye to moral issues, he said. “A country that had only sand and pearls in the sea, well in fact they found something worth much more – that’s gas. If there was no gas, no one wouldn’t care. Now they all come and they all want something.
Infantino, who is expected to be re-elected unopposed for another term at the helm of Fifa next year, has chastised sections of the media for their relentless negative coverage of Qatar’s preparations. Fans, he said, would prefer to read about the sport.
“The magic of football – as soon as the ball rolls, people focus on it, because that’s what people want,” he said.
Asked if it was right for Iran to still participate in the World Cup as protesters faced a brutal crackdown from authorities, Infantino said he did not belong. Fifa to make radical moral judgments on entire countries.
“It’s not two regimes playing against each other,” he said. “There are 80 million people in Iran. Do you think they are all bad? Do you think they are all monsters? I do not think so.”
Mustafa Qadri, chief executive of human rights group Equidem Research, said: “History will not judge this moment kindly. Infantino’s speech was an insult to the thousands of hard-working women and men who made the World Cup possible.”