The head of world football’s governing body FIFA, in a bizarre speech on Saturday, blamed Europe for sparking the controversy over human rights violations in Qatar, the host of this year’s World Cup.
Qatar was chosen as the venue for the international sporting event in 2010 following a massive bribery scandal involving FIFA officials. It was chosen despite its record of mistreatment by migrant workers, harsh rules involving women and police attacks on people in the conservative Muslim nation’s LGBTQ community, where homosexuality is illegal.
The British are so concerned about potential problems that they have sent a team of special engagement officers to protect fans from the fanatic police in Qatar.
FIFI head Gianni Infantino referred to the “hypocrisy” of outraged Western countries giving “moral” lessons given their own past. He compared his own suffering to migrant workers and the LGBTQ community in Qatar, explaining that as a boy in Switzerland he was “bullied” for having red hair and freckles. Thousands of migrant workers have died in Qatar over the past decade due to extreme heat and accidents in the construction of World Cup stadiums and related facilities.
“If you want to criticize someone, come to me,” Infantino said in his hour-long talk to the international press at the Qatar National Convention Center.
“Criticize me. Here I am. Cross me,’ said Infantino. “Don’t criticize Qatar.”
Most shockingly, he seemed to characterize himself as a representative of all oppressed people in Qatar – or at least someone with a deep understanding of what they are experiencing in the nation.
“Today I have very strong feelings, I can tell you,” said Infantino. “Today I feel Qatari. I feel Arab. I feel African. I feel gay. I feel disabled. I feel [like] a migrant worker.”
He added: “Of course I’m not Qatari, I’m not Arab, I’m not African, I’m not gay, I’m not disabled. But I’m looking forward to it because I know what it means to be discriminated against [against]to be bullied, as a foreigner in a foreign land.”
Infantino assured members of the LGBTQ community that they would be safe — though no such assurances have been made by Qatari officials. Qatar’s ambassador to Britain has even warned that kissing between same-sex couples was likely to be problematic.
Amnesty International harshly criticized Infantino after his comments, saying he was guilty of “dismissing legitimate criticism of human rights” and “rejecting the huge price migrant workers paid” to make the tournament possible.
Infantino also defended Qatar’s last-minute ban on all alcohol, even beer, in all stadiums. He scoffed that fans should be able to go “three hours” without beer. The ban does not apply to FIFA executives, like him, or wealthy visitors who are allowed to drink beer, wine, whiskey and champagne in their luxury stadium suites.
Fans around the world have called for a boycott of attending or watching the event, and several teams have and will be protesting human rights abuses in the country.
Critics on Twitter accused Infantino, one of the highest paid sports executives in the world, of identifying with migrant workers and other oppressed people in Qatar.