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World Cup 2022: FIFA president says criticism of Qatar is ‘hypocrisy’ in ‘crass’ and ‘infuriating’ news conference

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DOHA, Qatar – FIFA President Gianni Infantino delivered an extraordinary and blunt defense of Qatar and the 2022 World Cup at a press conference Saturday, during which he lashed out at the “hypocrisy” of Western critics and used “something like” to defend the host’s track record countries in the field of human rights. .

Infantino, speaking for the first time in months ahead of the tournament, responded to the most frequent criticism of this World Cup by comparing the current state of workers’ rights, LGBTQ rights and women’s rights in Qatar to the situation in Europe in the 20th century. arguing that “reform and change take time”; and stating in an impassioned hour-long monologue that FIFA helped accelerate progress in Qatar.

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Addressing Europe directly, he implicitly referred to colonialism and centuries of other atrocities, and argued that “for what we Europeans have done for the last 3,000 years around the world, we must apologize for the next 3,000 years before we begin to give moral apologies.” lessons for people.

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He argued that Qatar deserves credit for opening its doors to migrants, while many wealthy Western countries often close their doors. “If you all really care about the fate of these people, these young people, Europe could also do what Qatar did, create some channels, legal channels, so that at least some of these workers can come to Europe,” Infantino said. . . “Give them some work, give them some future, give them some hope.”

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Infantino, who has been living in Qatar for most of this year, also named Western countries and companies that deal with and profit from Qatar, and asked, “How many of them have turned to migrant workers’ rights? … None of them.”

He then claimed that FIFA. Infantino has previously acknowledged that millions of migrants arrived in Qatar and worked under a legal system, the kafala system, that has been compared to “modern-day slavery.” He claimed, and did so again on Saturday, that FIFA helped bring about the repeal of kafala and other reforms that had been passed. He mentioned the Qatar workers’ support and insurance fund, which the government says has paid out several hundred million dollars.

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 19: FIFA President Gianni Infantino speaks during the press conference ahead of the opening match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Doha, Qatar on November 19, 2022.  (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Gianni Infantino spoke non-stop for over an hour on Saturday in an attempt to defend FIFA’s decision to host the World Cup in Qatar. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Human rights organizations generally acknowledge that the focus on FIFA has indeed contributed to change. However, they also said that the reforms were carried out sloppily or with errors, and that abuses continue to flourish – non-payment of wages, overtime, poor conditions, illegal recruitment fees.

Representatives of the same groups reacted incredulously to Infantino’s comments. They were “An insult to the thousands of hardworking women and men who made the World Cup possible,” said Mustafa Qadri, founder of the human rights organization Equidem.

They “were as rude as they were clumsy and assumed that the FIFA president was getting his talking points directly from the Qatari authorities.” said Nick McGeehanBritish investigator and advocate for workers’ rights fair square.

“This is so infuriating,” Rotna Begum, a senior fellow at Human Rights Watch, wrote in an email to Sportzshala Sports.

Throughout the 1 hour and 40 minutes of the press conference, Infantino appeared to repeatedly justify Qatar’s failures by citing the failures of others, a tactic that human rights activists condemned. For example, he criticized the media for covering the suffering of migrant workers and LGBTQ people, but not for covering the suffering of people with disabilities. “What about that,” writes Begum, “should not divert attention from FIFA’s responsibility for the abuses that have taken place over the 12 years to host this World Cup.

When asked about women’s rights, Infantino pointed out that women did not have the right to vote in one of his country’s cantons, Switzerland, until 1990.

Speaking about the criminalization of homosexuality in Qatar, he said that “these laws exist in many countries around the world. These laws existed in Switzerland when Switzerland organized the World Cup in 1954.”

Infantino, whose parents emigrated from Italy to Switzerland, also seemed to equate the suffering of migrant workers in Qatar with what he and his family endured. He began his monologue with a clumsy string of statements: “Today I feel like a Qatari. Today I feel like an Arab. Today I feel like an African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel like a guest worker.”

He then reasoned that he knew “what it means to be discriminated against, what it means to be bullied as a foreigner in a foreign country.” He said that he was bullied in Switzerland as a child due to his imperfect language skills, red hair and freckles.

Infantino says everyone is welcome in Qatar

Infantino also reiterated that “everyone” regardless of “religion, race, sexual orientation, beliefs” is “welcome” in Qatar, despite local laws and life experiences that may suggest otherwise.

Referring specifically to the “LGBT situation,” he said: “I have spoken to the top leadership of the country on this subject – not once, but several times. And they confirmed that I can confirm that everyone is welcome.”

When asked how fans could trust these assurances after a separate assurance that alcohol would be available in stadiums was canceled two days before the tournament, Infantino defended the alcohol ban, “but when it comes to people’s safety “, he said: “the security of everyone is ensured, starting from the highest level of the country. This is a guarantee that we gave, give and stick to.

Infantino’s “I feel gay” comment immediately drew criticism from LGBTQ people, who felt that Infantino would be uncomfortable saying this in Qatar if he was in fact gay. (Infantino natural.)

In response to this and other criticisms, FIFA director of media relations Brian Swanson, the only person on stage along with Infantino, took the microphone at the end of the press conference.

“I just wanted to say something and use this platform if I can,” Swanson said. “Since I joined FIFA, I have seen a lot of criticism of Gianni Infantino, especially from the LGBTQI community. I am sitting here in a privileged position on the world stage as a gay man here in Qatar. We received assurances that everyone is welcome, and I believe that everyone will be welcome at this World Cup.

“Just because Gianni Infantino is not gay doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. He cares. You see the public side. I see the private side. And we have talked about this many times.

“I thought for a long time whether to mention this at this press conference. … But I am very worried about this. We at FIFA care about everyone. We are an inclusive organization. I have several gay colleagues. So, sitting here, I am fully aware of the debate, and I fully respect the right of each and every opinion to think differently. I understand. But I also know what we stand for. And when he says that we are inclusive, he means exactly that. I just wanted to highlight it.”

U.S. Women's National Team legend Mia Hamm spoke to Sportzshala Sports about the Americans' outlook for this month's tournament in Qatar - including why Christian Pulisic, Matt Turner and Tyler Adams will play a big role in the squad's success.\n

Mia joined Sportzshala Sports on behalf of TIAA to promote the importance of gender equality in retirement. Learn more about how TIAA is working to encourage pay equality in sport by visiting","thumbnailUrl":"","uploadDate":"2022-11-18T20:04:51Z","duration":"PT2M20S","contentUrl":"","embedUrl":"","identifier":"76b58db1-3605-32d0-b880-2791a94b0bed"}


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