Ahead of the World Cup, Fifa president Gianni Infantino has accused the West of hypocrisy in its reporting on Qatar’s human rights situation.
At a news conference in Doha, Infantino spoke for nearly an hour and made a passionate defence of Qatar and the tournament.
Casualties among migrant labourers and the treatment of LGBTs in Qatar have overshadowed the event.
Rather than focusing on migrant workers’ issues in Qatar, Infantino, who was born in Switzerland, said European nations should apologise for acts committed in their own histories.
He began by saying, ‘Today I have strong feelings. Today I feel Qatari, I feel Arab, I feel African, I feel gay, I feel disabled, I feel a migrant worker.’
Qatar will kickoff the tournament against Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday (16:00 GMT).
According to the Guardian, 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka died in Qatar between February 2022 and June 2022, as a result of working on World Cup infrastructure.
Qatar has asked the countries’ embassies for the figures.
Qatar, however, said the total was misleading, as not all the deaths recorded were of people working on World Cup-related projects.
Between 2014 and 2020, 37 workers died on World Cup stadium construction sites, only three of which were “work-related” deaths, the government said.
But, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said that was an underestimate.
Infantino said: “We have been taught many lessons from Europeans and the Western world. I am European. For what we have been doing for 3,000 years around the world, we should be apologising for the next 3,000 years before giving moral lessons.
“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.
“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.
“This one-sided moral lesson is just hypocrisy. I wonder why no-one recognises the progress made here since 2016.
“It is not easy to take the critics of a decision that was made 12 years ago. Qatar is ready. It will be the best World Cup ever.
“I don’t have to defend Qatar, they can defend themselves. I defend football. Qatar has made progress and I feel many other things as well.
“Of course I am not Qatari, Arab, African, gay, disabled or a migrant worker. But I feel like them because I know what it means to be discriminated and bullied as a foreigner in a foreign country.
“As a child I was bullied because I had red hair and freckles. I was bullied for that.”
Image Credit: AP Photo/Abbie Parr