FIFA president Gianni Infantino blasted the “hypocrisy” of Western critics of Qatar’s human rights record on Saturday, making a passionate defence of the World Cup in the Gulf state on the eve of the kick-off.
Qatar officials say their country has been the target of “racism” and “double standards” and they point to reforms on working conditions and safety that have been hailed as groundbreaking in the region.
“This moral lesson-giving – one-sided – is just hypocrisy,” said the Swiss.
“I don’t want to give you any lessons of life, but what is going on here is profoundly, profoundly unjust.”
He added: “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.”
Infantino also expressed his support for marginalised 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.
Another issue that has dominated the build-up to the tournament is the sale of beer in the Islamic country, which severely restricts alcohol consumption.
Organisers on Friday performed a dramatic U-turn, banning beer sales around stadiums just 48 hours before kick-off.
World football governing body FIFA 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.
Infantino made light of the late change on Saturday.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)