Ahead of the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar on Sunday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino gave a bizarre speech lashing out at critics of the host country.
According to ESPN's James Olley, Infantino spoke for one hour at a news conference and suggested that European people or companies who condemn Qatar over moral issues are acting hypocritically:
"We are told to make many lessons from some Europeans, from the western world. I'm European. I think for what we Europeans have been doing for 3,000 years around the world, we should be apologizing for the next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons to people.
"How many of these European companies who earn millions and millions from Qatar or other countries in the region—billions every year—how many of them have addressed migrant-worker rights? I have the answer: none of them because if they change the legislation it means less profits. But we did. And FIFA generated much, much, much less than any of these companies, from Qatar.
"We see here as well many government representatives coming from Qatar. I don't have to defend Qatar in any way whatsoever, they can defend themselves. I am defending football here, and injustice. If there was no gas, nobody would care. But now they all come and they all want something. Who is actually caring about the workers? FIFA does. Football does, the World Cup does and to be fair to them, Qatar does as well."
The 2022 World Cup, which is the first to be held in the Middle East, will officially kick off Sunday when host Qatar faces Ecuador.
Per Dan Kilpatrick of the Evening Standard, much of the criticism levied toward Qatar has focused on poor treatment of migrant workers and the country's anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
It is reportedly estimated that around 6,500 migrant workers have died while working construction for the World Cup since Qatar was awarded the event back in 2010.
Kilpatrick reported Nicholas McGeehan, director of human rights research and advocacy group FairSquare, called Infantino's comments "crass" and "clumsy." CEO of human and labor rights firm Equidem Mustafa Qadri said, "History will not judge this moment kindly."
In addition to moral issues, FIFA has seemingly bowed to Qatar on other fronts as well, including the sale of alcohol at stadiums during World Cup games.
According to ESPN's Tom Hamilton, tournament organizers had agreed to waive Qatar's strict limitations on alcohol to allow the sale of Budweiser beer at World Cup venues, but FIFA announced Friday that alcohol sales would instead be limited to a small amount of areas away from stadiums.
Hamilton noted that there is still "building work ongoing around the various fan parks, transport hubs and stadiums" as well despite the fact that the tournament's opening game is imminent.