FIFA president Gianni Infantino gave a nearly hour-long speech on the eve of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar that was described as “rude” and “insulting” to migrant workers by rights groups.
At the start of a news conference in Doha, Infantino – the head of world football’s governing body – accused Western criticism of Qatar’s human rights record of hypocrisy in an explosive monologue.
“What we Europeans have done in the past 3,000 years, we should apologize for the next 3,000 years before we start offering moral lessons,” he said. “Reform and change take time. Our European countries took hundreds of years. Everywhere it takes time, and the only way to get results is to engage…not shout.”
The World Cup, which kicked off on Sunday and is the first to be held in the Middle East, has been mired in controversy, with much of the preparations centered on human rights issues, including the deaths of migrant workers and environmental concerns. Many people put up with LGBTQ and women’s rights in Qatar.
Infantino, while acknowledging that things were not perfect, called some of the criticism “deeply unfair” and accused the West of applying double standards.
Steve Coburn, Amnesty International’s head of economics and social justice, said in a statement: “By ignoring legitimate human rights criticism, Gianni Infantino is dismissing the immigrant workers who made his flagship event possible. And a huge price to pay – and FIFA’s responsibility for it.
He added that “demands for equality, dignity and compensation cannot be seen as some kind of culture war – they are universal human rights that FIFA has committed itself to respect in its own statute.
“If there was a silver lining, it was Infantino’s announcement that FIFA would establish a legacy fund after the World Cup. However, this cannot be just window dressing. If FIFA salvages anything from this game, it It must be announced that it will invest a significant portion of the $6 billion that the organization will receive from this race and ensure that this money goes directly to compensating workers and their families.”
Nicholas McKeehan, director of the non-profit human rights group FairSquare, said in a statement: “Infantino’s comments were rude and clumsy, suggesting that the FIFA president was getting his talking points directly from the Qatari authorities.
“Deflections and side shots have been at the heart of Qatar’s PR efforts to justify its ranking failure and now they let the FIFA president do their job for them.”
Mustafa Kadri, CEO of the international human rights organization Equidem, also said in a statement: “History will not treat this moment kindly. Infantino’s speech insulted thousands of hard-working men and women They are the ones who made the World Cup possible.
“He has a golden opportunity to acknowledge that thousands of men and women from the poorest countries have come to the richest countries only to face deception, exploitation and discrimination.
“Every day, workers are contacting Equidem about unpaid wages, abuse and being afraid to speak out for fear of reprisals from their employers. Here is a solution: Infantino should create a comprehensive compensation fund and ask Qatar to create an independent migrant worker centers so workers have a safe space to make complaints and get the support they need.”
The Guardian reported last year that 6,500 South Asian migrant workers had died in Qatar since its 2010 World Cup triumph, most in low-paid, dangerous labor, often in extreme heat of.
The report did not link all 6,500 deaths to World Cup infrastructure projects, nor was it independently verified by CNN.
Hassan Al Thawadi, who is leading preparations in Qatar, told CNN’s Becky Anderson last year that the Guardian’s figure of 6,500 was a “sensational figure”. headline” is misleading and the story lacks context.
An administration official told CNN there were three work-related deaths in the stadium and 37 non-work-related deaths. In a statement, the official said the Guardian’s figures were “inaccurate” and “seriously misleading”.
Eight new stadiums have sprung up from the desert, and the Gulf state has expanded its airport and built new hotels, railways and highways. All are built by migrant workers who, according to Amnesty International, make up 90 percent of the workforce in a population of nearly 3 million.
Since Qatar won the World Cup in 2010, migrant workers have faced arrears or arrears of wages, forced labour, long hours in hot weather, intimidation by employers and the inability to leave their jobs because of the country’s sponsorship system, rights groups have found.