The World Cup kicks off on Sunday after questions from critics of the tournament, which has been held in Qatar for 12 years. Although the opening match is hours away, football itself is still overshadowed by off-field issues.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s dramatic hour-long monologue against Western critics of the controversial tournament is still making headlines around the world. Human rights organizations assessed this as “shame” and “humiliation” of migrant workers.
Infantino, head of soccer’s world governing body, looked sullen as he spoke to hundreds of journalists in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, opening an hour-long news conference in which he accused Western critics of hypocrisy and racism.
“We are learning many lessons from the Europeans and the Western world,” he said, referring to criticism of the human rights situation in Qatar.
“What we Europeans have been doing for the last 3,000 years, we should apologize for the next 3,000 years before we start teaching moral lessons.”
The tournament will be a historic event, the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East, but it will also be mired in controversy, from the deaths of migrant workers and many conditions to human rights. Qatar was tolerant of LGBTQ and women’s rights.
Those who participated in the tournament faced a lot of criticism. Last week, British comedian Joe Lycett questioned former England captain and Manchester United star David Beckham’s status as a gay icon.
In Qatar, homosexuality is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison. A Human Rights Watch report released last month cited instances of Qatari security forces arbitrarily arresting LGBT people and subjecting them to “mistreatment in custody” as recently as September.
Maluma, the Colombian singer who performed the official anthem of the World Cup, walked out of an interview with Israeli television when he was questioned about the human rights situation in the Gulf state.
Qatar’s first game is against Ecuador at 11am on Sunday, and Infantino barely talked about football in his dramatic press conference, focusing instead on what he called the “hypocrisy” of Western criticism.
Infantino told reporters he knows how it feels to be discriminated against, saying he was bullied as a child because of his red hair and freckles.
“Today I feel Qatar. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel like a migrant worker,” he said in front of an astonished audience.
“I feel this, all this, because I think that if I didn’t read what I saw, what I was told, otherwise I would be depressed.
“What I saw brings me back to my personal story. I am the son of migrant workers. My parents worked very hard in a difficult situation.”
Infantino emphasized that progress has been made in Qatar on a number of issues, but real change will take time, and FIFA will not leave the country after the tournament. He suggested that some Western journalists think they are oblivious to these issues.
“We should invest in education, give them a better future, give them hope. “Each of us should educate ourselves,” he said.
“Reform and change take time. Hundreds of years have passed in our countries in Europe. Everything takes time, and the only way to get results is through engagement […] not by shouting.’
Human rights activists criticized the head of FIFA and his speech. Nicholas McGeehan, director of the NGO FairSquare, said in a statement: “Infantino’s comments are as rude as they are clumsy and show that the FIFA president is taking his cues directly from the Qatari authorities.
Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s head of economic and social justice, said in a statement: “Ignoring legitimate human rights criticism, Gianni Infantino is denying the huge price paid by migrant workers to host his flagship tournament, as well as FIFA’s responsibility. is she.
Infantino also answered questions about the last-minute decision to ban the sale of alcohol in the eight stadiums that will host the tournament’s 64 matches. FIFA said in a statement on Friday that alcohol will be sold in the fan zone and in licensed areas.
The Muslim country is considered a very conservative country and strictly regulates the sale and consumption of alcohol.
In September, Qatar said it would allow ticketed fans to buy alcoholic beer at World Cup stadiums, but not during matches, three hours before kick-off and one hour after the final whistle.
“First of all, let me assure you that every decision made during this World Cup is a joint decision between Qatar and FIFA,” he said. “Every decision is discussed, debated and made together.”
“There will be […] There are more than 200 places where you can buy alcohol in Qatar and more than 10 fan zones, where more than 100,000 people can drink alcohol at the same time.
“I think if you don’t drink beer for three hours a day, you’ll survive.”
“Especially in France or Spain or Portugal or Scotland, the same rules apply, now you can’t drink beer in stadiums,” he added.
“It seems to be a big deal because it’s a Muslim country, or I don’t know why.”
Infantino ended the press conference by saying that things would be safe in Qatar because of the concerns of the LGBTQ community.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and punishable by up to three years in prison, but FIFA’s president has promised it is a tournament for everyone.
“Also, let me mention the LGBT situation. I have discussed this topic with the top leadership of the country not only once, but several times. They confirmed, and I can confirm, we will accept everything,” Infantino said.
“This is a clear requirement of FIFA. Everyone should be welcomed, everyone who comes to Qatar is welcome regardless of religion, race, sexual orientation, or creed. All of you will be accepted. This was our demand and the State of Qatar will follow this demand,” Infantino said.