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19th Nov 2022

Gianni Infantino says European countries should apologise to Qatar ‘for the next 3,000 years’

Charlie Herbert

Gianni Infantino defence of Qatar

Infantino told reporters ‘don’t criticise Qatar’

Gianni Infantino has launched an extraordinary defence of Qatar and its hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, suggesting that European nations should be “apologising for the next 3,000 years” before criticising the Gulf state.

The most controversial World Cup ever kicks off on Sunday (November 20) in Doha, with Qatar’s human rights record having been under intense scrutiny since it was awarded the tournament in 2010.

The country has faced huge criticism in particular for its stance on same-sex relationships and treatment of migrant workers.

But FIFA president Infantino has launched a passionate defence of the tournament, accusing the West and European nations of “hypocrisy” for their criticism of Qatar’s human rights record.

In a bizarre monologue at a news conference in the country’s capital, Doha, he claimed to understand how migrant workers and gay people “feel” because of the fact he was bullied as a child for having red hair.

Infantino began his speech by saying: “Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arabic. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel [like] a migrant worker.

“Of course I am not Qatari, I am not an Arab, I am not African, I am not gay, I am not disabled. But I feel like it, because I know what it means to be discriminated [against], to be bullied, as a foreigner in a foreign country.

“As a child I was bullied – because I had red hair and freckles, plus I was Italian so imagine. What do you do then? You try to engage, make friends. Don’t start accusing, fighting, insulting, you start engaging. And this is what we should be doing.”

He continued: “For what we Europeans have been doing around the world in the last 3,000 years we should be apologising for the next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons to people.

“How many of these European or Western business companies who earn millions from Qatar, billions, how many of them have addressed migrant workers’ rights with the authorities?

“None of them, because if you change the legislation it means less profit. But we did, and FIFA generates much less than any of these companies from Qatar.”

Infantino ended the hour-long press conference with an order to journalists not to criticise the host nation. “If you need to criticise anybody, don’t put pressure on the players, the coaches.

“You want to criticise. You can crucify me. I’m here for that. Don’t criticise anyone. Don’t criticise Qatar. Let people enjoy this World Cup.”

Sky Sports reporter Melissa Reddy labelled the speech “repulsive” and “dangerous.”

In February last year, an investigation by the Guardian said that 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had died in Qatar since it won its World Cup bid.

The number is based on figures provided by the countries’ embassies in Qatar.

However, the Qatar government has always claimed the figure is misleading, because not all the deaths recorded were of people working on World Cup-related projects.

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