Infantino Lampastes “The Hypocrites”
DOHA: Two weeks after FIFA urged the 32 teams at the World Cup to “focus on football”, Gianni Infantino deviated from the script on Saturday.
Nothing was off the mark as football’s most powerful man vented his frustration in a one-hour, one-minute tirade that encompassed 3,000 years of history, the evils of colonialism, childhood bullying and freckles.
Years of controversy dominated the run-up to the World Cup in Qatar over the host country’s treatment of migrant workers and its human rights record.
But FIFA President Infantino on Saturday strongly rejected the insult, insisting much of the criticism was misplaced and unfair.
Today I have strong feelings. Today I feel like a Qatari. Today I feel like an Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel like myself. Today I feel helpless. “Today I feel like a migrant worker,” said Infantino in his opening remarks.
“I feel this, all this, because what I see and what I am told, since I don’t read, otherwise I would be depressed, I think.” Infantino then linked criticism of Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers to his own experience as the son of Italian immigrants to Switzerland. “What I saw brings me back to my personal story. I am the son of migrant workers. My parents worked very hard in difficult situations.
“Of course I am not Qatari, not Arab, not African, not gay, and not disabled. But I feel it, because I know what it means to be discriminated against as a foreigner in a foreign country.
“As a kid I was bullied – because I had red hair and freckles, plus I was Italian so imagine. What do you do next? You try to engage and make friends. You don’t start accusing or fighting or insulting, you start engaging. That’s what we should do.” “.
Infantino compared Qatar’s recruitment of foreign workers to European attitudes toward immigration, noting the deaths of an estimated 25,000 people trying to enter Europe via the Mediterranean since 2014.
We have learned many lessons from the Europeans and the Western world. Infantino said, “I am European and because of what we have been doing for 3,000 years around the world, we must apologize for the next 3,000 years before giving moral lessons.”
If Europe were truly interested in the fate of these people, it could create legal channels – as Qatar has done – whereby a number of these workers could come to Europe to work. Give them a future, some hope.
“This one-sided moral lesson is sheer hypocrisy… I don’t want to give you any lessons in life, but what is going on here is deeply unfair.”
Infantino later defended Qatar and the World Cup on the issue of LGBTQ rights, insisting that everyone be welcome to the tournament regardless of sexual orientation. Qatar came under constant criticism over LGBT rights in the weeks leading up to the tournament.
Qatar’s former international and World Cup ambassador, Khaled Salman, sparked outrage earlier this month after describing homosexuality as “brain damage” in an interview with German television. “I have spoken about this subject at the highest level of leadership, they can assure me that I can assure that everyone is welcome,” said Infantino.
“If you are someone who says otherwise, it is not the opinion of the country or the opinion of FIFA. We welcome everyone who comes to Qatar.”