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FIFA president Gianni Infantino accused the West of “hypocrisy” in its reporting on Qatar’s human rights ahead of the World Cup.
In an extraordinary monologue at a press conference in Doha, Infantino spoke for nearly an hour and made an impassioned defense of Qatar and the tournament.
The event was overshadowed by issues in Qatar such as the deaths of migrant workers and the treatment of LGBT people.
Infantino opened by saying, “Today I have strong emotions. Today I feel Qatari, I feel Arab, I feel African, I feel gay, I feel disabled, I feel migrant worker.”
Hosts Qatar kick off the tournament against Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday (16:00 GMT).
In February 2021, the Guardian reported that 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had died in Qatar since it won its World Cup bid.
The figure is based on data provided by the countries’ embassies in Qatar.
But Qatar’s government said the total was misleading because not all deaths recorded were from people working on World Cup-related projects.
Infantino said: “I am European. For what we have been doing for 3,000 years around the world, we should apologize for the next 3,000 years before we teach moral lessons.
“If Europe really cares about the fate of these people, it can create legal channels – as Qatar has done – where many of these workers can come to Europe to work. Give them some future, some hope.
“I find it difficult to understand the criticism. We need to invest in helping these people, in education and giving them a better future and more hope. We all need to be educated, many things are not perfect, but reform and change take time.
“This one-sided moral is just hypocrisy. I wonder why no one recognizes the progress that has been made here since 2016.
“It is not easy to take on the critics of a decision made 12 years ago. Qatar is ready, it will be the best World Cup ever.
“I don’t need to defend Qatar, they can defend themselves. I defend football.”
More to come.
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