2022 World Cup | Backlash continues in the wake of FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s tournament-opening speech

Infantino has remained at the center of media attention in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with today’s inflammatory remarks adding to the shadow that already looms over the world’s most beloved sporting spectacle

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has added fuel to the fire that is the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after the sports’ top boss put himself center-stage once again.

The 52-year-old Swiss-born president gave a speech in front of the media today just 24 hours before the tournament is set to kick off but has made headlines for all the wrong reasons after he made a wide range of inflammatory statements that have since come under fire, including a passionate rebuttal from Sky Sports reporter Melissa Reddy.

Infantino began his speech by declaring “Today I have very strong feelings. Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel like a migrant worker.”

Amnesty International was quick off the mark to release a comment about Infantino’s speech through the Head of Economic & Social Justice Steve Cockburn, stating “Unless he breaks his silence on the issue of compensation, Gianni Infantino looks set to refuse a golden opportunity to leave a World Cup legacy that respects and honors the workers who made it possible.”

“FIFA cannot use the spectacle of the World Cup to dodge its responsibilities. It has a clear duty toward the hundreds of thousands of workers who suffered while building the stadiums and infrastructure needed for the tournament. A public commitment to a compensation fund - while not undoing the past - would represent a major step forward.”

Now, human rights activists have also justifiably chimed in after Peter Tatchell labeled Infantino’s speech as ‘outrageous’ during an LGBTQ+ protest formed outside the Qatari embassy in London.

Tatchell commented on the situation as it stood, stating “The FIFA boss’ comments were outrageous. It was an insult to Qatari people suffering under that regime.”

“The fact that he was bullied as a kid, that’s terrible. But it’s nothing by comparison to the way in which women, LGBTQ+ people, and migrant workers are treated in Qatar.”

“So, you know, those comments are just indicative of the way FIFA has been bought by Qatar and is acting like a mouthpiece for the regime.”

This is not the first time that Infantino has drawn backlash for his actions leading up to the tournament after he, in conjunction with FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura, recently sent an open letter to all 32 nations that are set to open hostilities in Qatar this weekend urging those involved to “let football take center stage” while keeping out of politics.

Infantino has also been given a clear pathway to be re-elected for a third term as president in 2023, which has also seen questions asked as to whether or not the global organization is amid yet another period of rampant controversy and corruption.

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Andrew Thompson

US-based Football writer. German football guru with a wealth of experience in youth development and analysis. Data aficionado. Happily championing the notion that Americans have a knowledgeable voice in the beautiful game.

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