FIFA president Infantino hits out at ‘hypocritical’ Qatar criticism

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Al-Rayyan (dpa/reuters) – FIFA president Gianni Infantino has accused the Western countries of “hypocrisy” and slammed the criticism towards World Cup hosts Qatar during his opening speech ahead of the tournament on Saturday.

In lengthy, and sometimes angry, opening remarks at a news conference on the eve of the start of the tournament, Infantino rounded on European critics of the host nation over the issues of migrant workers and LGBT rights.

The build-up to the tournament in the Gulf state, which starts on Sunday, has been dominated by concerns over Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers, women and the LGBTQ community.

“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,” he said.

“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,” he said.

“It is not easy to take the criticism of a decision that was made 12 years ago. Doha is ready, Qatar is ready and of course it will be the best World Cup ever.”

Infantino added: ‘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, 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.

Qatar officials say their country has been the target of “racism” and “double standards”. They point to the reforms on working conditions and safety that have been hailed as groundbreaking in the Gulf region.

The World Cup kicks off on Sunday when host nation Qatar take on Ecuador in the opening match.

dpa / daily mail / AFP

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