The chief of football’s international governing body accused the West of “hypocrisy” in its reporting about Qatar’s human rights record and said European nations should instead be apologising for their own histories.
Infantino said critics were in no position “to give moral lessons to people” in a fiery speech at a news conference in Doha, in which he spoke for nearly an hour and made a passionate defence of Qatar and the tournament.
It comes after the game’s global governing body has been attacked for its decision to take the finals to Qatar, which has come under fire for its treatment of migrant workers and its attitude to LGBTQ+ rights.
Defending the World Cup host nation ahead of the opening game on Sunday (20 November), the FIFA chief said: “I think for what we Europeans have been doing the last 3,000 years we should be apologising for next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons to people.
“How many of these European or Western business companies who earn millions from Qatar, billions, how many of them have addressed migrant workers’ rights with the authorities? None of them, because if you change the legislation it means less profit. But we did, and FIFA generates much less than any of these companies from Qatar.”
Switzerland-born Infantino challenged “hypocritical” countries across Europe to contribute to a World Cup legacy fund to support migrant workers after the tournament ends next month and announced “a dedicated International Labour Organisation Office in Doha…where migrant workers can go, unions can be integrated and seek assistance.”
He 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.
“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 also called on European nations to improve their own record on migrant workers before attacking Qatar and FIFA.
He said: “If Europe would really care about the destiny of these young people, Europe could do as Qatar did, create some legal channels where at least a number, a percentage of these workers could come.
“Lower revenues…give them some hope, give them some future. This means we shouldn’t point to what doesn’t work. Here in Qatar as well there are some things that don’t work. That needs to be addressed. The moral less giving, one sided, it’s just hypocrisy.
“We need to give hope to Africans so that they don’t need to cross the Mediterranean in order to find, maybe, a better life but more probably death in the sea. We need to give opportunity and we need to give dignity, not by giving charity but by allowing the rest of the world to participate.”
Alcohol U-turn ‘a joint decision’
Infantino also addressed the abrupt, eleventh-hour decision by the Qatar authorities to ban the sale of alcohol at all eight World Cup stadiums just two days before the start of the tournament.
Alcohol was set to be served “in select areas within stadiums”, despite its sale being strictly controlled in Qatar. Those in corporate areas of stadiums at the tournament will still be able to purchase alcohol.
Addressing the U-turn, Infantino said: “If this is the biggest issue we have for the World Cup then I will resign immediately and go to the beach to relax. Let me first assure you that every decision taken at this World Cup is a joint decision between Qatar and Fifa.
"There will be many fan zones where you can buy alcohol in Qatar and fans can simultaneously drink alcohol. I think if for three hours a day you cannot drink a beer, you will survive.
"Especially because the same rules apply in France, Spain, Portugal and Scotland. Here it has become a big thing because it is a Muslim country? I don’t know why. We tried and that is why I give you the late change of policy. We tried to see if it was possible."