FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s much-discussed speech on the eve of the World Cup has prompted a response from Amnesty International, who have accused the Italian of ‘brushing aside legitimate human rights criticisms.”
In a sprawling and bizarre address, Infantino claimed that Europeans had no right to criticise Qatar for their human rights record and compared the treatment of foreigners in the country to being bullied for having red hair.
Infantino also made headlines with the opening of his speech, saying: “Today I have strong feelings. Today I feel Qatari, I feel Arab, I feel African, I feel gay, I feel disabled, I feel a migrant worker.”
Within hours, Infantino’s comments had received a response from Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice.
“In brushing aside legitimate human rights criticisms, Gianni Infantino is dismissing the enormous price paid by migrant workers to make his flagship tournament possible – as well as FIFA’s responsibility for it,” Cockburn wrote.
“Demands for equality, dignity and compensation cannot be treated as some sort of culture war – they are universal human rights that FIFA has committed to respect in its own statutes.
“If there is one tiny glimmer of hope, it is that Infantino announced that FIFA would establish a legacy fund after the World Cup. This cannot be mere window dressing, however.
“If FIFA is to salvage anything from this tournament, it must announce that it will invest a significant part of the $6bn the organisation will make from this tournament and make sure this fund is used to compensate workers and their families directly.”
The week leading up to the tournament has been shrouded in controversy, with Qatar reneging on their agreement to allow alcohol inside stadiums during matches and more players speaking out on the country’s questionable human rights record.
As the world waits for the World Cup to kick off on Sunday, it remains to be seen whether the football can provide a distraction from the off-field issues surrounding the competition.