On the eve of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Fifa president Gianni Infantino delivered an explosive hour-long monologue, lecturing Western critics of the controversial tournament.
Infantino, head of world football’s governing body, was sombre as he addressed hundreds of reporters in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday.
“We have learned a lot from Europeans and from the Western world,” he said, referring to criticism of Qatar’s human rights record.
“What we Europeans have been doing for the last 3,000 years, we should apologize for the next 3,000 years before we start moral education.”
Although the opening game kicks off on November 20, Infantino said little about football, instead focusing on what he called the “hypocrisy” of western criticism.
Infantino appeared exhausted during a remarkable press conference. He spent a lot of time defending FIFA’s decision to award the World Cup to Qatar in 2010. A controversial decision when he was not chairman of the governing body.
The World Cup, which will be a historic event, the first to be held in the Middle East, is also mired in controversy, with much of the preparations centered on human rights issues, including the deaths of migrant workers and the death of many situation. Enduring LGBTQ and women’s rights in Qatar.
While acknowledging that things were not perfect, Infantino said some of the criticism was “extremely unfair” and accused the West of double standards.
The Italian opened his hour-long speech by telling reporters he knew what it was like to be discriminated against, saying he was 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. Today I feel like a migrant worker,” he said in front of a stunned audience.
“I feel this, all of this, because of what I’ve seen and what I’ve been told, because I don’t read, otherwise I think I’d be depressed.
“What I saw reminded me of my personal story. I was the son of a migrant worker. My parents worked very, very hard in difficult circumstances.”
Infantino said Qatar had made progress on a range of issues but insisted real change would take time, adding that FIFA would not leave the country after the World Cup. He said he thought some Western journalists would forget about the issues.
“We need to invest in education to give them a better future, to give them hope. We should all be educating ourselves,” he said.
“Reform and change take time. It took hundreds of years in our European countries. It takes time everywhere and the only way to get results is to engage […] Not by shouting. ”
Infantino also answered questions about the last-minute decision to ban the sale of alcohol at the eight stadiums where 64 games will be played. In a FIFA statement released on Friday, the governing body said alcohol would be sold in fan areas and licensed venues.
The Muslim country is considered very conservative and has strict regulations on the sale and use of alcohol.
In September, Qatar said it would allow ticket holders to buy alcoholic beer three hours before kick-off and one hour after the final whistle, but not during games.
“Let me start by assuring you that every decision in this World Cup is a joint decision between Qatar and FIFA,” he said. “Every decision is discussed, debated and made jointly.”
“will have […] There are more than 200 places where you can buy alcohol and more than 10 fan zones in Qatar where more than 100,000 people can drink at the same time.
“I personally think that if you don’t drink beer for three hours a day, you can survive.”
“Especially because virtually the same rules apply in France, Spain, Portugal or Scotland, where beer is not allowed in stadiums now,” he added.
“It seems to be a big deal because it’s a Muslim country, or I don’t know why.”
Amid concerns from the LGBTQ community, Infantino ended the press conference by insisting that everyone in Qatar would be safe.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and is punishable by up to three years in prison, but the FIFA president has promised a tournament for everyone.
“Let me also mention, the LGBT situation. I have spoken to the top leaders of the country on this topic many times, not once. They have confirmed, and I can confirm, that all are welcome,” Infantino said.
“This is a clear request from FIFA. Everyone must be welcome, everyone who comes to Qatar is welcome, regardless of her or his religion, race, sexual orientation, beliefs. All are welcome. This is our demand , the Qatari government insists on this request,” Infantino said.