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FIFA president Gianni Infantino defends Qatar in bizarre speech

FIFA President Gianni Infantino refuted critics of Qatar Saturday during a press conference in Doha on the eve of the World Cup. Photo by Moahamed Messara/EPA-EFE
FIFA President Gianni Infantino refuted critics of Qatar Saturday during a press conference in Doha on the eve of the World Cup. Photo by Moahamed Messara/EPA-EFE

Nov. 19 (UPI) -- On the eve of the 2022 World Cup, Fifa president Gianni Infantino accused critics of Qatar's human rights record of hypocrisy and racism in an interview on Saturday.

Infantino spoke for nearly an hour and frequently drew gasps of astonishment as he claimed that western nations were in no position to give morality lessons to Qatar, according to the Guardian.

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"We have been told many, many lessons from some Europeans, from the western world," he said. "I think for what we Europeans have been doing the last 3,000 years we should be apologising for the next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons to people."

He also downplayed concerns about LGBTQ+ fans and migrant workers facing dangers in the country.

RELATED HRW: LGBT Qataris arrested ahead of World Cup

"Today I feel Qatari," he said. "Today I feel Arabic. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel [like] a migrant worker."

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Infantino added "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."

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This year's World Cup has been plagued by criticism of Qatar as the hosting country due to the deaths of migrant workers and the status and treatment of people identified as LGBTQ+.

Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International's Head of Economic and Social Justice, condemned Infantino's remarks in a statement.

"In brushing aside legitimate human rights criticisms, Gianni Infantino is dismissing the enormous price paid by migrant workers to make his flagship tournament possible -- as well as FIFA's responsibility for it," he said. "Demands for equality, dignity and compensation cannot be treated as some sort of culture war -- they are universal human rights that FIFA has committed to respect in its own statutes."

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