Infantino became Fifa’s president in February 2016.Host nation: Qatar Dates: 20 November-18 December Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Day-by-day TV listings – Full coverage detailsFifa president Gianni Infantino has accused the West of “hypocrisy” in its reporting about Qatar’s human rights record on the eve of the World Cup.
In an extraordinary monologue at a news conference in Doha, Infantino spoke for nearly an hour and made a passionate defence of Qatar and the tournament.
The event has been overshadowed by issues in Qatar including deaths of migrant workers and treatment of LGBT people.
Switzerland-born Infantino said that European nations should apologise for acts committed in their own histories, rather than focussing on migrant workers’ issues in Qatar.
Infantino opened by saying: “Today I have strong feelings. Today I feel Qatari, I feel Arab, I feel African, I feel gay, I feel disabled, I feel a migrant worker.”
Hosts Qatar kick off the tournament against Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday (16:00 GMT).
In February 2021, the Guardian said 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had died in Qatar since it won its World Cup bid.
The number is based on figures provided by the countries’ embassies in Qatar.
However, the Qatar government said the total was misleading, because not all the deaths recorded were of 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 be apologising for the next 3,000 years before giving moral lessons.
“If Europe really care about the destiny of these people, they can create legal channels – like Qatar did – where a number of these workers can come to Europe to work. Give them some future, some hope.
“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. I wonder why no-one recognises the progress made here since 2016.
“It is not easy to take the critics of a decision that was made 12 years ago. Qatar is ready, it will be the best World Cup ever.
“I don’t have to defend Qatar, they can defend themselves. I defend football. Qatar has made progress and I feel many other things as well.
“Of course I am not Qatari, Arab, African, gay, disabled or a migrant worker. But I feel like them because I know what it means to be discriminated and bullied as a foreigner in a foreign country.”
Qatar has been under pressure to build a migrant workers’ centre and Infantino announced a “dedicated and permanent office” in Doha, following discussions with the Qatar government and International Labour Organisation (ILO).
He also said every worker that has an accident “receives compensation by law”.
“Depending on the magnitude, it can be several years of salary,” he added.
Infantino also said Fifa’s Qatar 2022 legacy fund will go into education, signing an agreement that will help 25 million children and women in India.
Alcohol u-turn ‘a joint decision’Just two days before the start of the tournament, Fifa changed its policy and announced no alcohol will be served at any of the eight World Cup stadiums.
Alcohol was set to be served “in select areas within stadiums”, despite its sale being strictly controlled in the Muslim country.
Those in corporate areas of stadiums at the tournament will still be able to purchase alcohol.
Addressing the changed decision, 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.”
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