There has been a lot of criticism directed at Qatar hosting the World Cup with their human rights record, treatment of migrant workers, opposition to alcohol and stance on the LGBTQ community amongst other things.
The continued non-football-related discourse about the World Cup appears to have become too much for FIFA president, Gianni Infantino who fired back at the critics with a speech that could be defined as many things, ranging from unconventional to strange and downright weird.
Infantino has had enough
Infantino’s comments were made at what was supposed to be a 45-minute Q&A with the media in Doha before Sunday’s opening game but turned out to be arguably the most memorable World Cup eve moment of all time.
The 52-year-old spoke for nearly an hour and appeared to be having a meltdown while defending Qatar and the 2022 FIFA World Cup with rebuttals for each specific criticism.
And although a lot of what he said was strange, it was also mostly true and needed to be said, especially by someone as powerful and recognisable as the FIFA president.
“For what we Europeans have been doing around the world in the last 3,000 years we should be apologising for the next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons to people,” Infantino said, passionately turning the tables on the critics.
Basically, ‘he without sin should cast the first stone’ and there is a mountain of evidence that the Western countries leading the morality charge against Qatar are anything but saints.
The audacity of countries with long colonial histories, nations whose entire civilisations were built on the back of brutal oppression to then start pointing fingers at others.
Infantino’s comments do not absolve Qatar of any blame or wrongdoing, the Italian simply sees the situation for what it truly is.
The Western countries and critics in their ‘holier than thou’ approach do not truly care about the issues they protest, they simply see Qatar as an easy target for their woke propaganda which enables them to continue to appear to be on the right side of history.
Western hypocrisy is a bigger threat to the World Cup than Qatar
“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?” Infantino continued to ask the important questions.
Beyond performative nonsense such as wearing special armbands or carrying flags and signs in the stands, how exactly have these Western powerhouses attempted to solve the perceived problems?
The problems are categorised as ‘perceived’ because the Europeans and Americans can only see things through their own lens, failing to realise that some of these issues are not even considered problems by those actually involved.
Infantino’s words describe the situation with migrant workers best, “Hundreds of thousands of women and men from developing countries who’d like to offer their services abroad in order to help and give a future to their families back home. Qatar is actually offering them this opportunity. They come here, earn 10 times more than what they earn in their home country.”
Infantino was clearly trying to absolve himself and FIFA while also whitewashing Qatar but it does not make his point any less valid.
Most migrant workers, if not all, see this as an opportunity and not oppression as Westerners seem to think and in cases where people have been treated unfairly, Infantino urged them to reach out to FIFA by any means possible to get their due.
Of course, this promise did nothing to allay the ill feelings because trust in FIFA as an organisation is at an all-time low due to years of corruption.
By all means shoot the messenger but at least read the message first
And the FIFA president did not do himself any favours with his honest, yet ill-advised attempt to relate to the pain of the affected parties, “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.”
“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. I went in my room and I cried,” Infantino said.
Even though he was trying to appear relatable and let the people know he cares about their pain, comparing being bullied for having red hair to the serious matters being discussed was counter-productive on Infantino’s part.
Trust the world we live in to ignore his very valid points and ruminate on the mistake in his delivery, which is exactly what has been going on since Infantino spoke.
As earlier stated, Infantino is no saint, neither is FIFA nor Qatar, it is understandable that people don’t like him and the organisation he heads, which is fair.
What is however not fair, is that the discourse surrounding Qatar is being allowed to overshadow the actual Mundial, ruining the hard work of several people who in this context are innocent.
If FIFA is indeed corrupt, does that mean the whole organisation is? “I feel for the FIFA and Supreme Committee staff. They want to deliver here,” Infantino said in a valid rebuttal.
What about the millions of Arabian people, not just Qataris, who have waited for nearly a century to see the World Cup finally come to their region? How are they supposed to feel about this?
Or the players, the ones everyone actually pays to watch, the main actors, the real centre of attraction who are now being forced or baited into making political statements when all they want to do is play football on the very biggest stage.
How is that fair to them? After striving to achieve a lifelong goal of playing at the World Cup only to be turned into ad-hoc activists and politicians by a woke agenda that has nothing to do with the game.
The point is to not throw the baby away with the bath water, constructive criticism focused on making the World Cup a better experience is welcome while destructive criticism, driven by agenda and without any real aim other than appearing right is not.