FIFA president Gianni Infantino gave a confusing, and at times offensive, press conference one day before the 2022 World Cup kicks off.
The decision to award Qatar the showpiece tournament back in 2010 kicked off a string of controversies relating to the nation’s human rights record, while their treatment of migrant workers leading up to the World Cup has also come under fire.
With kick-off just one day away, there remain plenty of open criticisms regarding this World Cup, and Infantino gave a strange and disrespectful presser prior to the tournament’s opening.
“Today I have very strong feelings. Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel a migrant worker,” Infantino began.
“I’m not Qatari, African, gay, disabled & I’m not really a migrant worker but I know what it means to be discriminated & bullied, as a foreign in a foreign country, as a child at school I was bullied because I had red hair and freckles. I was bullied for that.
“We have been taught many many lessons by Europeans. I am European. I think what we Europeans have been doing around the world for the last 3,000 years, we should be apologising for the next 3,000 years before giving moral lessons to people.
“Who is actually caring about the workers? FIFA does, football does, the World Cup does & to be fair to them Qatar does as well. I was at an event a few days ago where we explained what we were doing at this World Cup for disabled people.
“400 journalists are here [at my press conference], that event was covered by four journalists. There is one billion disabled people in the world. Nobody cares. Nobody cares. Four journalists.
“Europe could do as Qatar did. Create some channels, some legal channels, where a number of those workers could come to Europe. Low revenues. But give them some work, some future, some hope.
“When it comes to compensation of workers, you should know there is a legal framework to cover workers’ compensation. We are in a sovereign country. Do you think FIFA can go to England or Italy and say ‘we will establish a system for migrant workers in your country’?
“Let me mention as well the LGBT situation. I’ve been speaking about this topic with the highest leadership of this country, several times, not just once & they have confirmed & I can confirm that everyone is welcome.
“If a person says the opposite, it’s not the opinion of the country & it’s certainly not the opinion of FIFA. Everyone who comes to Qatar is welcome. Whatever religion, race, sexual orientation, belief. This is our requirement & the Qatari state sticks to that.”
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Infantino then discussed Friday’s decision to ban the sale of alcohol near stadiums in a sudden U-turn, insisting FIFA have not lost control of the World Cup.
“Every decision taken at this World Cup is a joint decision between Qatar & FIFA. It is discussed, debated & taken jointly,” he continued.
“I think personally, if for three hours a day you cannot drink a beer, you will survive because actually the same rules apply in France, Spain, Portugal, Scotland.”
Infantino was also asked about Iran’s participation at the tournament given their current political instability, and offered a bizarre suggestion in response.
“If we should go with a tournament to Iran, let’s go because maybe that will change something,” he replied.