On the eve of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, FIFA President Gianni Infantino has laid bare against Western critics of the controversial tournament in a lengthy, explosive monologue.
Infantino, the boss of the world governing body, looked glum as he addressed hundreds of journalists in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday.
“We are being taught many lessons by the Europeans, by the Western world,” he said, referring to criticism of Qatar’s human rights record.
“What Europeans have done in the last 3,000 years, we must apologize for the next 3,000 years before we start giving moral lessons.”
Although the open match kicks off on November 20, Infantino has barely spoken about the disease and has focused his attention on what he called the “hypocrisy” of Western critics.
Infantino seemed exhausted during the press conference. He spent a lot of time defending FIFA’s decision in 2010 to decide the World Cup in Qatar. The discussion was controversial since he was not the president of the body.
This will be a historic tournament, the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East, but also in controversy, with many of the buildings focused on human rights, the death of migrant workers and many conditions. Qatar suffered for LGBTQ and women’s rights.
Infantino, although he admitted that things were not perfect, said that some of the criticism was “gravely unfair” and accused the West of double standards.
The Italian opened an hour-long news conference by telling reporters that he knows what it feels like to be discriminated against, saying that he bullied a boy because of his 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 worker,” he said before the stunned audience.
“I feel all this because what I have seen and what I have heard, since I do not read, I think I am depressed in a different way.
“What I saw comes back to my personal story. I am the son of an immigrant. My parents worked very hard in difficult circumstances.”
Infantino said that progress has been made in Qatar in relation to the problems, but he insisted that the real change is time, adding that FIFA will not leave the country after the tournament is over. He suggested that he thinks some Western journalists forget about the issues.
“We need to invest in education, to give them a better future, to give them hope. We all have to educate ourselves,” he said.
“It takes time to reform and change. It took hundreds of years in our countries in Europe. It takes time everywhere, the only way to achieve results is by fighting […] not crying ”
Infantino also addressed questions about the last-minute decision to remove alcohol from the eight stadiums that were sold in the 64-match tournament. In a statement issued by FIFA on Friday, the governing body said alcohol will be sold in fan zones and licensed venues.
The Muslim country is considered very conservative and strictly regulates the sale and use of alcohol.
In September, Qatar said it would allow gambling tickets to buy alcoholic beer at World Cup stadiums three hours before kickoffs and one hour after the final whistle, but not during the competition.
“The first thing is to assure you that every decision that is taken in this World Cup is a joint decision between Qatar and FIFA,” he said. “Every decision is discussed, debated, and accepted.”
“It will be […] over 200 places where you can buy alcohol in Qatar and over 10 fan zones where over 100,000 people can drink alcohol at the same time.
“I think personally, if you can’t drink beer for three hours a day, you will survive.”
“Especially because the same rule is observed in France or in Spain or in Lusitania or in Scotland, where now beer is not given in stadiums,” he added.
“It seems to be a big deal because it’s a Muslim country, or I don’t know why.”
Infantino concluded the press conference by stating that everyone in Qatar is safe, including the concerns of the LGBTQ community.
Homosexuality in Qatar is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison, but the FIFA president has promised that this tournament is for everyone.
“I remember, too, about the LGBT situation. I have spoken about this topic to the top leadership of the country several times, not once. They confirmed, and I can confirm, that everyone is very welcome,” said Infantino.
“Fifa’s demand is clear. Every person must be welcomed, everyone who comes to Qatar, whatever their religion, race, sexual orientation, creed. Everyone must be welcomed. This was our demand and the state of Qatar adheres to this demand,” Infantino said.