On the eve of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, FIFA President Gianni Infantino lashed out at Western critics of the controversial tournament in an explosive hour-long monologue.
Infantino, the president of world soccer’s governing body, looked downcast as he addressed hundreds of journalists in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday.
Referring to the criticism of Qatar’s human rights records, he said: “We have been taught many lessons from the Europeans, from the Western world.
What we Europeans have done for the past 3,000 years, we need to apologize for the next 3,000 years before we start teaching moral lessons.
Despite the opening game kicking off on November 20, Infantino barely spoke about football, focusing his attention on what he called the “absurdity” of Western criticism.
In a remarkable press conference, Infantino looked exhausted. He has spent a lot of time defending FIFA’s decision in 2010 to award the World Cup to Qatar. A controversial decision that was made when he was not the head of the governing body.
The tournament will be a historic event, the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East, but at the same time it will be full of controversy, with a greater focus on human rights, the death of migrant workers and many conditions. In Qatar, he stood up for LGBTQ and women’s rights.
Infantino, despite admitting that not everything was perfect, said some of the criticism was “deeply unfair” and accused the West of double standards.
The Italian man opened the news conference with an hour-long speech, telling reporters he knows what it feels like to be discriminated against, saying he was bullied as a child for having red hair and freckles.
Today I feel like a Qatari. Today I feel like an Arab. Today I feel like an African. Today I feel gay. I feel weak today. Today I feel like a migrant worker.
I feel this, all this, because of what I have seen and been told, since I don’t read, otherwise I think I would be depressed.
“What I have seen brings me back to my personal story. I am the child of a migrant worker. “My parents worked very hard in difficult conditions.”
Infantino said progress had been made in Qatar on a range of issues, but insisted that real change would take time, adding that FIFA would not leave the country after the tournament. He said he thought some Western journalists would forget the issues.
We need to invest in education to give them a better future and give them hope. “We all have to educate ourselves.”
Reforms and change take time. It took hundreds of years in our countries in Europe. Everything takes time, the only way to get results is interaction […] Not by shouting.”
Infantino also addressed questions surrounding the last-minute decision to ban the sale of alcohol in the eight stadiums hosting the tournament’s 64 matches. In a FIFA statement released on Friday, the governing body said alcohol will be sold in fan areas and licensed venues.
This Muslim country is considered very conservative 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 three hours before kick-off and one hour after the final whistle, but not during the match.
He said: Let me first assure you that any decision made in this World Cup is a joint decision between Qatar and FIFA. Every decision is discussed, debated and made jointly.
“will be […] 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 personally think, if you can’t drink a beer for three hours a day, you’ll survive.”
He added: “Especially because the same rules actually apply in France, Spain, Portugal or Scotland, where no beer is currently allowed in stadiums.
It seems like it’s a big thing because it’s a Muslim country or I don’t know why.
Infantino concluded the press conference by stressing that everyone in Qatar will be safe amid the concerns of the LGBTQ community.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and punishable by up to three years in prison, but the FIFA president has promised the tournament is for everyone.
“Let me also mention the LGBT situation. I have discussed this matter with the highest leadership of the country several times, not just once. “They have confirmed and I can confirm that everyone is welcoming.” 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, belief. All are welcome. This was our request and the government of Qatar adheres to this requirement.