Europe should apologise, not give ‘moral lessons’: FIFA president takes on Qatar World Cup critics

Europe should apologise for “what it has been doing for 3,000 years” instead of offering “moral lessons”, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a powerful speech on the eve of the World Cup in Doha on Saturday.

The top football chief lashed out at Western nations for what he described as “hypocrisy” in media coverage in the lead up to the global tournament, which has in recent weeks morphed into “racism”, according to officials in Doha.

“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,” the FIFA president said.

The comments on Saturday come as Qatar has continued to face incessant Western scrutiny over its hosting of the World Cup – the first Arab and Muslim nation to do so in the history of the tournament.

“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.”

‘Racist’ motives

As the tournament edges closer, Qatari officials have taken a more head on approach to call out criticism, highlighting apparent angles taken by western media that has widely disregarded progress made on the ground.

Addressing the discrimination, Infantino on Saturday said: “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”.

Last month, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said that “no other host nation” has faced this level of criticism.

“Since we won the honour of hosting the World Cup, Qatar has faced an unprecedented campaign that no other host nation has received. And we had handled it at first in good faith while considering some of the criticism positive and beneficial,” Sheikh Tamim told the Shura Council in October.

The amir added that while the criticism has helped Qatar “develop aspects that needed development”, it has continued to rear its ugly head.

“It soon became clear to us that the campaign has continued and expanded, and includes slander and double standards, until it has reached such a ferocity that many, unfortunately, wonder about the real reasons and motives behind it,” said Sheikh Tamim.

Speaking to Sky News earlier this month, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said critics of the World Cup in Qatar are “arrogant” and “cannot accept a small country from the Middle East”.

Similarly, the Chief Executive Officer of Qatar 2022 Nasser Al-Khater said “European countries feel they have monopoly over the World Cup.”

“Europe has hosted 11 tournaments out of 22 tournaments, of course it refuses that a country like Qatar or an Arab Muslim country hosts a tournament like the World Cup,” Al-Khater told Al Jazeera Arabic in a televised interview last week.

Addressing the scrutiny, Al-Khater said the anti-Qatar campaign has evolved over the past decade, with aims taken at Qatar size as a geographically small country to its hot summer climate.

“From the start, we have said that this tournament represents all Arabs and is for the entire Arab world, this increases our excitement and our sense of responsibility and increases determination to make this tournament a success,” said Al-Khater.

Qatar is due to kick off the Middle East’s first ever World Cup on Sunday.

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