Europe should apologise for “what it has been doing for 3,000 years” instead of offering “moral lessons”, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said on Saturday in Doha ahead of football World Cup.
The FIFA chief lashed out at Western nations for what he described as “hypocrisy” in media coverage in the lead up to the global tournament, which has in recent weeks morphed into “racism”, according to Qatar.
“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,” the top football chief said.
Qatar has been facing incessant Western scrutiny over its hosting of the World Cup – the first Arab and Muslim nation to do so in the history of the tournament.
He went on to say: “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,” said Infantino.
He continued: “This one-sided moral lesson is just hypocrisy. I wonder why no-one recognises the progress made here since 2016. It is not easy to take the critics 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.”
Addressing the discrimination, Infantino said: “Today I have strong feelings. Today I feel Qatari, I feel Arab, I feel African, I feel gay, I feel disabled, I feel a migrant worker.”
Last month, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said that “no other host nation” has faced this level of criticism.
He also responded to the treatment of LGBTQ people in Qatar, saying more open laws were “part of a process”.
“They’ve (Qatari organisers) confirmed and I can confirm that everyone is welcome. If you have a person here and there who says the opposite, it’s not the opinion of the country, it’s certainly not the opinion of FIFA,” he said.
Infantino added that homosexuality was illegal in 1954 when Switzerland held the World Cup.
“Commercial success’ of World Cup
Infantino also hailed the “commercial success” of this year’s World Cup, saying FIFA was set to generate $600 to $700m more than past tournaments.
“We sold the media rights for around $200 million more than the last World Cup,” he said. “We sold the sponsorship rights for also around $200 million more than the last World Cup.”
“And as far as ticketing and hospitality rights are concerned, we are at almost two to 300 million more than the last World Cup,” he said.