World Cup: FIFA president Gianni Infantino defends Qatar

World Cup: FIFA president Gianni Infantino defends Qatar

World Cup: FIFA president Gianni Infantino defends Qatar

He then tackled one issue after another, expressing his irritation that, in his view, the reality of life in Qatar was far different from what was on the pages of the newspapers he claimed to ignore.

He insisted that fears about the treatment of LGBTQ+ people attending the World Cup were overblown, and repeatedly said they were welcome in Qatar even though homosexuality remains criminalized in the country.

“Everyone is guaranteed security, from the highest level of government,” Infantino said. “This is the guarantee we made and we stand by it.”

He then tried to downplay Friday’s abrupt U-turn on the availability of beer in stadiums, a last-minute change that shocked FIFA’s long-time partner most affected by it, Budweiser. Infantino insisted that far from damaging that relationship, the sudden break actually strengthened the relationship with the brewer.

He offered no evidence to back up his claim, a day after Budweiser released a statement in which it appeared to begrudgingly accept the decision – made in consultation between Qatar and FIFA, Infantino insisted – was beyond their control.

The sudden reversal of years of promises by the tournament’s organizers has raised questions about FIFA’s authority over its own event, with the beer ban demanded by senior members of the Qatari royal family. Infantino, however, insisted that all decisions, even those made late, and apparently under the influence of a royal order, were made jointly.

“I feel like I have 200 percent control of this World Cup,” he said.

Infantino hinted darkly at what underpinned the sudden change of heart about beer, blaming the move on “threats previously unknown”. His comments also highlighted concerns about Qatar’s suitability to host such a large event: With four games a day in the first group stage, all played in what is effectively a city-state, Infantino said the movement of large groups of fans within such a the compact environment carried greater risks if they were fueled by beer.

Asked about the appropriateness of his language, Infantino remained unapologetic, doubling down whenever he was forced to explain himself.

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