DOHA, Qatar – On the eve of the World Cup, the president of world football’s governing body on Saturday defended Qatar’s reputation, criticizing the “hypocrisy” and “racism” of countries that complained about the nation’s human rights record in the Middle East.
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During an hour-long press conference on Saturday in Doha, Qatar, FIFA President Gianni Infantino defended the treatment of migrant workers, adding that LGBTQ+ people are welcome and reassuring that he remains in control of football’s flagship event despite a short-term stadium ban on alcohol , ESPN reported.
“You want to criticize someone, come to me,” Infantino told reporters, according to the New York Times. “Criticize me. Here I am. crucify me
“Don’t criticize Qatar,” Infantino said. “Don’t criticize the players. Don’t criticize anyone. Criticize FIFA. Criticize me if you want. Because I am responsible for everything.”
Infantino questioned Europe’s immigration policies, adding that western nations could learn from Qatar, a country criticized by human rights activists for the treatment of migrant workers, ESPN reported. Qatar is the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup, NPR reported.
“I am European. For what we have been doing around the world for 3,000 years, we should apologize for the next 3,000 years before giving moral lessons,” Infantino told reporters. “Today I feel like a Qatari. Today I feel Arabic. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel handicapped. Today I feel like a migrant worker.”
During a question-and-answer session, Infantino fired back at a reporter who said the executive had omitted women from his testimony, The Associated Press reported.
“I feel like a woman,” Infantino replied.
Since awarding the 2010 World Cup, Qatar and FIFA have come under criticism, NPR reported. A report this month from Equidem, a London-based human rights group, says the migrant workers who built the World Cup stadiums worked long hours and in harsh conditions. The report added that the migrants faced discrimination, wage theft and other abuses, according to NPR.
Infantino defended Qatar’s policy.
“We in Europe, we are closing our borders and we are allowing practically no workers from these countries, who obviously have very low incomes, to work legally in our countries,” he said. “If Europe really cared about the fate of these people, these young people, then Europe could do what Qatar did.
“But give them some work. Give them a future. Give them some hope. But this one-sided moral teaching is just hypocrisy.”
The FIFA President also defended local organizers’ decision to ban the sale of beer in the tournament’s eight stadiums, the Times reported.
“Personally, I think if you can’t drink beer for three hours a day, you’re going to survive,” Infantino said, adding that there are dozens of other places across the country that could serve alcohol to up to 100,000 people, according to the newspaper .
FIFA said in a statement on Friday that alcohol can be purchased at the FIFA Fan Festival and other licensed venues, just not inside the stadiums, the AP reported.
Champagne, wine, whiskey and other alcoholic beverages are available in the stadium’s luxurious hospitality areas. These are exclusive to hospitality areas during the World Cup. Beer is usually available for regular ticket holders.
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