Fifa chief accuses World Cup critics of 'hypocrisy'

Fifa chief accuses World Cup critics of 'hypocrisy'

Don't lecture Qatar, says Infantino, adding that fans can 'survive' without beer

Fifa president Gianni Infantino:
Fifa president Gianni Infantino: "Today I feel Qatari, today I feel Arab, today I feel African, today I feel gay, today I feel disabled, today I feel a migrant worker." (AFP Photo)

DOHA: Fifa president Gianni Infantino hit back at criticism of Qatar's human rights record on Saturday, blasting the "hypocrisy" of Western critics on the eve of the World Cup kick-off.

Infantino, speaking at his opening press conference of the tournament in Doha, also expressed support for the LGBTQ community and migrant workers.

The Swiss executive also declared that World Cup fans can “survive” for three hours a day without beer after sales were banned around stadiums.

But he reserved his strongest comments for those who have been heaping condemnation on the host country, which won the right to stage this year’s showcase under circumstances that many believe were very murky.

“This moral lesson-giving — one-sided — is just hypocrisy,” he said. “I don’t want to give you any lessons of life, but what is going on here is profoundly, profoundly unjust.

“For what we Europeans have been doing for the last 3,000 years we should apologise for the next 3,000 years before starting giving moral lessons to people.”

The build-up to the tournament in the Gulf state has been dominated by concerns over Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers, women and the LGBTQ community.

Infantino expressed his support for those communities.

“Today I feel Qatari, today I feel Arab, today I feel African, today I feel gay, today I feel disabled, today I feel a migrant worker,” he said.

Qatar officials say their country has been the target of “racism” and “double standards”. They point to the reforms on working conditions and safety that have been hailed as groundbreaking in the Gulf region.

Infantino also said the ban on beer sales around stadiums should not prevent people from enjoying the tournament.

“I think personally if for three hours a day you cannot drink a beer, you will survive,” he said. “The same applies in France, Spain, Scotland.”

World Cup chiefs on Friday banned beer sales around stadiums in Qatar in a stunning U-turn, just 48 hours before Sunday’s kickoff.

Alcohol is largely prohibited in the Islamic nation but the organisers sparked fury from fans with their dramatic late decision.

Fifa said beer would not be sold to fans around any of the eight World Cup stadiums following discussions with the hosts.

It said beer sales would be focused on fan zones and licensed venues, “removing sales points of beer from Qatar’s Fifa World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters”.

It gave no reason for the surprise decision but media reports said there had been an intervention by Qatar’s ruling family.

Dozens of Budweiser beer tents had already been set up at grounds ahead of the first game. Budweiser has paid $75 million as a sponsor of the World Cup.

The World Cup kicks off on Sunday when host nation Qatar take on Ecuador in the opening match.

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