Doha, Qatar – FIFA President Gianni Infantino accused Western countries of “hypocrisy” saying they could not give “moral lessons” to other countries, hours before the World Cup kicks off in Qatar.
At a fiery meeting in the Qatari capital on the eve of the tournament, the Swiss Italian said Europe must deal with past mistakes before pointing fingers at Qatar.
“I am white. “For what we Europeans have done in the world in the last 3,000 years, we have to apologize for the next 3,000 years before we start giving moral lessons to people,” Infantino told hundreds of journalists on Saturday.
Qatar, which was awarded the right to host the World Cup in 2010, has been criticized for its treatment of migrants and human rights record.
Infantino, the son of Italian migrant workers, said the Middle East had “made progress” in improving the rights of migrant workers.
“I came here six years ago and talked about migrant workers, in my first meeting,” Infantino said, standing and looking at the assembled reporters.
“How many of the European or Western commercial companies, who have received millions and millions from Qatar and other countries in the region – billions every year – how many have spoken about the rights of migrant workers and government officials?
“I have an answer for you. None of them,” said the FIFA official, adding that “a one-sided study is just an illusion.”
Homosexuality is illegal in the country, but Qatar has said all fans are welcome to attend the show.
“I have been talking about this issue with the highest leadership in this country. Several times, not just once. They have confirmed, and will confirm, that everyone is welcome,” said the FIFA President.
Speaking to reporters at the end of the press conference, FIFA press director Bryan Swanson, who is gay, insisted that everyone is welcome in Qatar.
“I have seen a lot of criticism of Gianni Infantino since I joined FIFA, especially from the LGBTQ community,” Swanson said.
“I am living here in the best place in the world as a gay man here in Qatar. We have received assurances that everyone is welcome and I believe everyone will be welcome at the World Cup,” he added.
Critics have also questioned Qatar, the first Arab country to host the tournament, for banning the sale of alcohol in stadiums during matches.
“Every decision that is taken in this World Cup, is a joint decision between Qatar and FIFA. Every decision is discussed, debated and taken together. There will be, I don’t know how many, fans – eight, 10, big areas, more than 200 places where you can buy alcohol, “said Infantino.
He added that this is not unusual because drinking alcohol in football stadiums is prohibited in major European countries such as France, Spain, Portugal and Scotland.
While some critics are calling for a corporate boycott of the World Cup, Infantino praised the “commercial success” of this year’s tournament.
“We sold media rights for about $200m more than the last World Cup,” he said. “We also sold sponsorship rights for almost $200m more than the last World Cup.
“And in terms of ticket rights and hospitality, we are about 200 to 300 million more than the last World Cup.”
Qatar kicks off the 32-team tournament on Sunday against Ecuador. Infantino said the Gulf countries have done an amazing job in preparing for the games.
“Doha is ready. Qatar is ready. It will be the best World Cup ever, yes,” he said.