FIFA President Gianni Infantino has been criticized online after defending the organization of the World Cup in Qatar on Saturday.
During a press conference in Doha, Infantino addressed recent criticism of Qatar’s stance towards the LGBTQ community, as well as its treatment of migrant workers in the country.
“Today I feel Qatar. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. I feel gay today. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel [like] migrant worker,” said Infantino.
Wanting to show solidarity with marginalized groups, he added: “I am the son of migrant workers. My parents worked very, very hard in very, very difficult conditions. Not in Qatar – in Switzerland.”
In a slightly more defensive tone, he also said: “We have received many, many lessons from some Europeans in the Western world. I think for what we Europeans have been doing for the last 3,000 years, we should apologize for the next 3,000 years before he starts teaching people moral lessons.”
Bryan Swanson, FIFA’s director of media relations, also told the press conference: “I’m sitting here as a jolly in Qatar. We have been assured that all will be welcome, and I believe all will be.”
In addition to laws banning homos*xuality, Qatar has long been accused of mistreatment of migrant workers.
Infantino’s performance drew a wave of criticism on social media ahead of the first match of the 2022 World Cup on Sunday.
“Gianni Infantino’s crazy monologue made King Lear look balanced” tweeted Henry Winter, chief football journalist Times sports desk. “Either no one close to the FIFA president questions him or gives him good advice – or he just doesn’t listen. He lives in a bubble, turning into Blatter, embarrassing himself and the game.”
This was a reference to former FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who is currently banned from FIFA events due to a corruption scandal.
“I love the World Cup because of the memories I had of watching it when I was a kid but as you get older it gets harder to just ‘focus on football’ and Infantino’s comments have just made it home why it’s important that we continue to talk about the dark side of sport” he wrote freelance football writer Casey Evans.
“Some may say ‘if you don’t like it then don’t watch it’ but this is my first world championship as a journalist and I think it’s important that we continue to talk honestly about it while watching him if there is any hope of saving a soul sport that brings joy to so many people,” added Evans.
Alex Stewart, head of content at soccer analytics firm Analytics FC, put it simply tweeted: “I love football, I hate Infantino.”
Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital and head of the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign who has fought against human rights abuses, calls Infantino’s remarks “Whataboutism. Something that Putin also uses to justify his evil.”
“This is the best time to reform Qatar,” Browder said.
James Sharpe, Sports Journalist post office on sunday, He said“Someone, somewhere, wrote that speech, and someone, somewhere, thought it was brilliant. And then, of course, Gianni Infantino did too.”
“But Today No One Feels #Infantino” tweeted Swiss radio and television journalist Mario Torriani mocks the statements of the FIFA president.
Newsweek asked FIFA for comment.
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