FIFA President Gianni Infantino told a room full of reporters that he wants people to “talk about football” at the World Cup instead of host country Qatar’s disregard for human rights and discrimination against women and LGBTQ+ people.
Infantino, instead, made that nearly impossible by creating a huge distraction on the eve of the opening game of the World Cup when he said numerous offensive statements such as equating his experiences of being bullied as a child because he had red hair to the violence against migrant workers and minority groups that occurs in Qatar.
“Today I feel Qatari,” Infantino said. “Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel (like) a migrant worker.”
For context, the Qatar World Cup has had embroiled in controversy for more than a decade. Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2010. In 2015, former FIFA President Sepp Blatter and others were indicted on charges of bribery and money laundering around the bid.
Qatar is an autocratic state that suppresses the freedoms of LGBTQ+ individuals and women while also exploiting migrant workers. There are estimates that up to 6,500 migrant workers died building the World Cup stadiums.
Infantino said Europeans couldn’t criticize Qatar because of its history, and he also defended FIFA’s stance to allow Iran to compete in the tournament after the Iranian regime’s violent quelling of protestors following the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the so-called “morality police.”
“Are they all monsters?” Infantino asked while suggesting FIFA should host a tournament in Iran.
The entire press conference stunned nearly everyone who heard or read Infantino’s comments. Oh, by the way, Infantino was just re-elected as FIFA President and ran unopposed.
🤯 Thread about today’s Gianni Infantino news conference, in which he made some astonishing remarks.
Quotes make it read like an article from The Onion. https://t.co/nAXgSfCqwL
— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) November 19, 2022
Exceptional effort from Gianni Infantino to see how many absurd, harmful, misleading, unhinged and downright disrespectful things he can fit into one address.
— Melissa Reddy (@MelissaReddy_) November 19, 2022
I AM DYING OVER HERE.
This is actually a sentence from the frickin’ HEAD OF FIFA https://t.co/gYr6rZCJLO
— Luis Miguel Echegaray (@lmechegaray) November 19, 2022
Michael Scott is running FIFA based on the quotes https://t.co/6YTIDdYWR7
— Chris Wittyngham (@ChrisWittyngham) November 19, 2022
Hands down the most ridiculous organization in the world. https://t.co/aOoBhsfu82
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) November 19, 2022