2022 World Cup: FIFA President Gianni Infantino accuses West of ‘hypocrisy’

Host country: Qatar Appointment: November 20-December 18 Cover: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Day-to-day TV programsFull coverage details

Fifa President Gianni Infantino has accused the West of “hypocrisy” in his reporting on Qatar’s human rights record on the eve of the World Cup.

In an extraordinary monologue at a press conference in Doha, Infantino spoke for nearly an hour and made a passionate defense of Qatar and the tournament.

The event was overshadowed by issues in Qatar, including the deaths of migrant workers and the treatment of LGBT people.

Infantino, born in Switzerland, said European nations should apologize for acts committed in their own history, rather than focusing on issues of migrant workers in Qatar.

Infantino opened by saying, “Today I have strong feelings. Today I feel Qatari, I feel Arab, I feel African, I feel gay, I feel disabled, I feel migrant worker.”

Hosts Qatar kick off the tournament against Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday (1600 GMT).

In February 2021, the Guardian said 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had died in Qatar since it won its World Cup bid.

The number is based on figures provided by the countries’ embassies in Qatar.

However, the Qatari government said the total was misleading as not all of the deaths recorded were of people working on World Cup-related projects.

The government said its accident records showed there had been 37 fatalities among workers on World Cup stadium construction sites between 2014 and 2020, of which only three were “work-related”.

However, the International Labor Organization (ILO) says this is an underestimate.

Infantino said: “We have learned many lessons from Europeans and from the western world. I am European. For what we have been doing for 3,000 years in the world, we should apologize for the next 3,000 years before giving lessons. of morals.

“If Europe really cares about the fate of these people, it can create legal channels – as Qatar has done – where a number of these workers can come to work in Europe. Give them a future, a hope .

“I find it difficult to understand the critics. We must invest in helping these people, in education and giving them a better future and more hope. We should all educate ourselves, many things are not perfect but reform and change takes time.

“This one-sided moral lesson is just hypocrisy. I wonder why no one recognizes the progress made here since 2016.

“It’s not easy to accept criticism of a decision that was made 12 years ago. Qatar is ready, it will be the best World Cup ever.

“I don’t have to defend Qatar, they can defend themselves. I defend football. Qatar has made progress and I feel a lot of other things too.

“Of course, I am not Qatari, Arab, African, gay, disabled or a migrant worker. But I feel like them because I know what it means to be discriminated against and bullied as a foreigner in a country foreign.

“As a kid, I was bullied because I had red hair and freckles. I was bullied for it.”

England defender Eric Dier said of the criticism: “The World Cup was awarded to Qatar in 2010 and I was 16 at the time. As players we have no decision on the where we play, those decisions are made above us.

“It’s a difficult situation for us. Every team and every player will deal with it throughout the tournament. It’s disappointing.”

Qatar boss Felix Sanchez added: “A lot has been said about it, some misinformation and some comments weren’t quite right. The loss of life during working hours is the greatest tragedy, whether here in Qatar or elsewhere in the world.

“Hopefully at this World Cup we can all work together to improve the conditions for these groups, not only in Qatar but all over the world.”

Qatar has come under pressure to build a migrant worker center and Infantino announced a “dedicated and permanent office” in Doha, following discussions with the Qatari government and the ILO.

He also said that every worker who has an accident “receives compensation under the law”.

“Depending on the magnitude, this can represent several years of salary,” he added.

Infantino also said Fifa’s Qatar 2022 legacy fund will go into education, signing a deal that will help 25 million children and women in India.

U-turn on alcohol “a joint decision”

Just two days before the start of the tournament, Fifa changed its policy and announced no alcohol will be served in one of the eight World Cup stadiums.

Alcohol was to be served “in certain areas of the stadiums”, although its sale was strictly controlled in the Muslim country.

Those in the commercial areas of the tournament stadiums will still be able to purchase alcohol.

Addressing the amended decision, Infantino said: “If this is the biggest problem we have for the World Cup, I will resign immediately and go to the beach to relax.

“Let me first assure you that every decision taken at this World Cup is a joint decision between Qatar and Fifa.

“There will be many fan zones where you can buy alcohol in Qatar and fans can simultaneously drink alcohol. I think if for three hours a day you cannot drink beer, you will survive.

“Especially because the same rules apply in France, Spain, Portugal and Scotland. Here it became a big thing because it’s a Muslim country? I don’t know why. We tried and it That’s why I’m giving you the late policy change. We tried to see if it was possible.

Analysis – A quite extraordinary moment

BBC Sport’s Shamoon Hafez

Qatar were named World Cup hosts in 2010 and there have been questions and criticism ever since.

Just when you thought the most talked about World Cup was about to kick off, Gianni Infantino launched into an incredible pre-planned monologue that stunned the room in silence.

The 400 reporters and film crew gathered in the press conference auditorium first looked around before jaws hit the ground as Infantino unleashed a 54-minute speech that didn’t hasn’t hit media coverage of migrant workers, the LGBT community, and last-minute U-enable drinking.

Infantino also answered questions from the floor and was asked about the ‘focus on football’ letter sent to the 32 nations, fans who won’t be watching the tournament and England v Iran.

The press conference then took another dramatic turn when Fifa media relations director Bryan Swanson addressed the room.

Former Sky Sports reporter Swanson said: “I’m sitting here as a gay man in Qatar. We’ve been given assurances that everyone will be welcome and I think everyone will be.

“Just because he [Infantino] isn’t gay, doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. He does. You see the public side and I see the private side. I thought long and hard about whether to say that. I hold on to it strongly.

“We care about everyone at Fifa. I have a number of gay colleagues. I am fully aware of the debate and fully respect people’s opinions. When he says we are inclusive. He means it.”

A rather extraordinary day on the eve of a World Cup which does not seem to run out of steam in the headlines.

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