FIFA president Gianni Infantino targeted European critics of World Cup host Qatar on Saturday and suggested a moral double standard in his home continent.
Infantino listed Europe’s problems on the eve of Qatar kicking off its home tournament that has been dogged for years by criticism of the emirate’s record on human rights and treatment of migrant workers who built stadiums and infrastructure.
“What we Europeans have been doing for the past 3000 years we should be apologising for the next 3000 years before we start giving moral lessons to people,” Infantino said to hundreds of international media.
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He said Qatar and capital city Doha will be ready to host the “best World Cup ever.”
“Today I feel Qatari,” Infantino said. “Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel a migrant worker.”
Infantino related the criticism to bullying and discrimination he said he experienced as a child of Italian parents who moved to work in Switzerland.
He said European nations now closed its borders to immigrants who wanted to work there, whereas Qatar had offered opportunities to workers from India, Bangladesh and other southeast Asian nations through legal channels.
The president’s bizarre speech did not go down well, with Infantino widely panned by the football community.
Migrant labourers 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.
Under heavy international scrutiny, Qatar has enacted a number of labor reforms in recent years that have been praised by Equidem and other rights groups. But advocates say abuses are still widespread and that workers have few avenues for redress.
“What has been put on the table in the past few months is something quite incredible,” the FIFA leader said of criticism of Qatar from Western media.
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