Ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, FIFA president Gianni Infantino hit out at Western critics of the controversial tournament in an hour-long monologue.
Speaking to hundreds of journalists in Doha, Qatar on Saturday, the head of world football’s governing body, Infantino, looked downcast.
“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.”
Despite the opening game on November 20, Infantino barely spoke about football, focusing instead on what he called the “hypocrisy” of Western criticism.
Infantino looked tired at the impressive press conference. He spent a lot of time defending FIFA’s decision to award the 2010 World Cup to Qatar. A controversial decision made when he was not president of the governing body.
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.
Infantino, while acknowledging that not everything is perfect, said some of the criticism was “very unfair” and accused the West of double standards.
Opening the press conference, the Italian spoke for an hour, telling reporters that he knows what it’s like to be discriminated against, saying that 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.’
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.