Tuesday, November 29, 2022

FIFA boss rebukes World Cup critics

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said he feels gay. That he feels like a woman. That he feels like a migrant worker. He lectured Europeans for criticizing Qatar’s human rights record and defended the host country’s last-minute decision to ban beer from World Cup stadiums.
The FIFA president delivered a one-hour tirade on the eve of the World Cup’s opening match, and then spent about 45 minutes answering questions from media about the Qatari government’s actions and a wide range of other topics.
“Today I feel Qatari,” Infantino said Saturday at the start of his first news conference of the World Cup. “Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel a migrant worker.”
Infantino later shot back at one reporter who noticed he left women out of his unusual declaration.
“I feel like a woman,” the FIFA president responded.
Qatar has faced a litany of criticism since 2010, when it was chosen by FIFA to host the biggest soccer tournament in the world.
Migrant laborers who built Qatar’s World Cup stadiums often worked long hours under harsh conditions and were subjected to discrimination, wage theft and other abuses as their employers evaded accountability, London-based rights group Equidem said in a 75-page report released this month.
Infantino defended the country’s immigration policy, and praised the government for bringing in migrants to work.
“We in Europe, we close our borders and we don’t allow practically any worker from those countries, who earn obviously very low income, to work legally in our countries,” Infantino said. “If Europe would really care about the destiny of these people, these young people, then Europe could also do as Qatar did.
“But give them some work. Give them some future. Give them some hope. But this moral-lesson giving, one-sided, it is just hypocrisy.”
Beer ban: FIFA president Gianni Infantino downplayed Qatar’s last-minute ban on the sale of beer at World Cup stadiums as nothing more than a brief inconvenience to spectators.
“If this is the biggest problem we have, I’ll sign that (agreement),” Infantino said Saturday, a day after the conservative Muslim emirate did an about-face on the deal it had made to secure the soccer tournament.
Infantino blamed “crowd flows” in Doha for the decision, though it appeared to be a ruling by Qatar’s autocratic government to placate its conservative Wahhabi citizens who already have been angered by some events around the tournament they view as Western excesses.
Infantino said the beer ban at stadiums was made jointly by Qatar officials and FIFA. “We tried until the end to see whether it was possible,” Infantino said of allowing alcohol sales.
“If for 3 hours a day you cannot drink a beer, you will survive. Maybe there is a reason why in France, in Spain, in Scotland, alcohol is banned in stadiums. Maybe they are more intelligent us, having thought maybe we should be doing that.”
World Cup opens with host country Qatar facing Ecuador: Given the level of focus on the Qatari regime, its attitudes toward human rights, immigrant workers, the LGBTQ community — and beer — the World Cup host’s soccer team has slipped under the radar.
Qatar opens the tournament against Ecuador on Sunday, but even the buildup to that match has been overshadowed by Friday’s announcement that the sale of beer will be banned inside the stadium grounds.
The World Cup is a source of immense national pride for Qatar in its attempt to raise its profile on the global stage and drive toward modernization. But what about the team?
Qatar has never before appeared in a World Cup and faces a major challenge just to emerge from Group A, which also includes Senegal and the Netherlands. South Africa in 2010 is the only host nation to fail to get beyond the group stage, so to avoid sharing that distinction would be success in itself. Sunday may be Qatar’s best hope for a victory against an Ecuador team that is only five places above it at No. 44 in the FIFA rankings.

SourceAP
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