FIFA president Gianni Infantino launched a bizarre defence of the Qatar World Cup on the eve of the tournament and attempted to show sympathy for minorities by revealing he too has been discriminated against… for having red hair!
The most controversial World Cup in history begins on Sunday with the host nation facing Ecuador after what promises to be a show stopping opening ceremony.
Build-up to the tournament, however, has been largely overshadowed by Qatar’s human rights record with the spotlight focusing on its archaic laws on homosexuality and its treatment of migrant workers, thousands of whom are said to have died in the construction of the eight new stadia that will host matches over the course of the next month.
Addressing the world’s media at a press conference on Saturday, Infantino said: ‘Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel a migrant worker.
‘I know what it feels to be discriminated … I was bullied because I had red hair.
‘I have been speaking about this topic with the highest leadership of the country. I can confirm that everyone is welcome. If you hear a person that says the opposite, it is not the opinion of the country or of FIFA.’
The World Cup was awarded to Qatar back in 2010 amid allegations of bribery that eventually led to the downfall of Infantino’s predecessor Sepp Blatter and former UEFA president Michel Platini.
Infantino argued it was not up to him to defend Qatar’s right to stage the biggest sporting event in the world and argued critics of the Gulf state were opening themselves up to accusations of rank hypocrisy.
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He said: ‘It is not easy to take the critics of a decision that was made 12 years ago. Qatar2022 is ready, it WILL be the best Fifa WorldCup ever.
‘I am European. For what we have been doing for 3000 years around the world, we should be apologising for the next 3000 years before giving moral lessons.
‘I don’t have to defend Qatar, they can defend themselves. I defend football.
‘If Europe really care about the destiny of these people, they can create legal channels – like Qatar did – where a number of these workers can come to Europe to work. Give them some future, some hope.
‘This one sided moral lesson is just hypocrisy. I wonder why no-one recognises the progress made here since 2016.’
‘I have difficulties understanding the criticism. We have to invest in helping these people, in education and to give them a better future and more hope. We should all educate ourselves, many things are not perfect but reform and change takes time.’
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