Infantino defends the World Cup in Qatar in a bizarre outburst: ‘I feel gay, disabled… and like a woman!’
Infantino held a press conference ahead of the tournament opener against Qatar Ecuador and he talked for almost an hour before taking questions.
QatarWorld Cup host Russia has been marred by criticism of the country’s human rights record and treatment of migrant workers.
“I have very strong feelings today,” Infantino began. “Today I feel like Qatar. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. I feel gay today. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel like a migrant worker.
“I am not Qatari, African, gay, disabled and not really a migrant worker, but I know what it means to be discriminated against and mistreated, as a foreigner in a foreign country. As a child I was bullied at school because I had red hair and freckles. I was bullied for it.”
It is difficult to report exactly how many migrant workers have died in the 12 years since Qatar qualified for the World Cup, but the number is in the thousands.
Explained: Why it is so difficult to determine the number of dead Qatari migrant workers
The vast majority of Qatar’s workforce is made up of more than two million migrant workers from countries such as India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines.
Infantino continued: “I am European. For what we have done for 3,000 years around the world, we should apologize for the next 3,000 years before we give moral lessons.
“If Europe really cares about the fate of these people, they can create legal channels – as Qatar has done – where a certain number of these workers can come to Europe to work. Give them some future, some hope.
“It’s hard for me to understand the criticism. We must invest in helping these people, in education and to give them a better future and more hope. We should all educate ourselves, many things are not perfect, but reform and change take time.
“This one-sided moral lesson is just hypocrisy. I wonder why no one recognizes the progress that has been made here since 2016.
Human rights at the Qatar World Cup – a guide to everything you need to know
Infantino has previously spoken about the rights of migrant workers in Qatar. In May, the Swiss-Italian ally said FIFA had helped give migrant workers “dignity and pride” through World Cup infrastructure projects.
He added that FIFA was “proud” that it “could change the conditions for these 1.5 million people”.
Infantino, meanwhile, will not be up for re-election to a third term as FIFA president next spring.
The next FIFA Congress will be held in Kigali, Rwanda, and FIFA confirmed on Thursday that Infantino has no challenger for the position he has held since 2016.
Infantino criticized ‘diversion’ and ‘culture war’ tactics
Amnesty International criticized Infantino, accusing him of dismissing human rights criticism and treating demands for equality as part of a “culture war”.
Responding to Infanta’s media address, Steve Cockburn, Amnesty’s head of economic and social justice, said: “By brushing aside legitimate human rights criticism, Gianni Infantino is rejecting the huge price paid by migrant workers to make his flagship tournament possible – as well as FIFA’s responsibility for that.
“Demands for equality, dignity and compensation cannot be treated as some kind of culture war – they are universal human rights that FIFA has committed to respect in its statutes.
“If there is even the tiniest glimmer of hope, it’s that Infantino has announced that FIFA will set up a legacy fund after the World Cup. This cannot be mere window dressing … it must be ensured that this fund is used to directly compensate workers and their families.”
Nicholas McGeehan, director of human rights organization FairSquare, described Infantino’s comments as “as crude as they are clumsy” and said the tournament’s public relations strategy was “a diversion and a thorny problem”.
Gianni Infantino’s World Cup letter is deplorable, irrational and stunningly stupid
(Photo: Getty Images)
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