The Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, has hit back at criticism of Qatar from Europe in a press conference on the eve of the World Cup.
The game’s global governing body has been attacked for its decision to take the finals to Qatar, where the treatment of migrant workers and the rights of LGBTQ+ people have been in the spotlight leading up to the finals.
“We have [been] told many, many lessons from some Europeans, from the western world,” Infantino said on Saturday. “I think for what we Europeans have been doing [for] the last 3,000 years we should be apologising for [the] next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons to people.”
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.”
Infantino ended his hour-long press conference with an instruction to assembled 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.”