FIFA president Gianni Infantino has accused the West of “hypocrisy” towards its reporting on issues in World Cup host nation Qatar.
Infantino gave a press conference on the eve of Qatar’s tournament opener against Ecuador and spoke for almost an hour before taking questions.
Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup has been tainted by criticism of the country’s record on human rights and treatment of migrant workers.
“Today I have very strong feelings,” Infantino began. “Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel (like) a migrant worker.
“I’m not Qatari, African, gay, disabled and I’m not really a migrant worker but I know what it means to be discriminated and bullied, as a foreign in a foreign country. As a child at school I was bullied because I had red hair and freckles. I was bullied for that.”
Infantino continued: “I am European. For what we have been doing for 3,000 years around the world, we should be apologising for the next 3,000 years before giving moral lessons.
“If Europe really care about the destiny of these people, they can create legal channels – like Qatar did — where a number of these workers can come to Europe to work. Give them some future, some hope.
“I have difficulties understanding the criticism. We have to 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 takes time.
“This one-sided moral lesson is just hypocrisy. I wonder why no-one recognises the progress made here since 2016.”
He added that FIFA was “proud” to have “been able to change the conditions for these 1.5 million people”.
Infantino, meanwhile, will stand unopposed for re-election for a third term as FIFA president next spring.
The Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup starts tomorrow 20th November with host nation engaging Ecuador in the first match after the opening ceremony.
— Ferdinand A Baah