FIFA president Gianni Infantino has been slammed on social media for his ‘tone-deaf’ speech ahead of the Qatar World Cup.
The 52-year-old was speaking a day before the opening game of the tournament when he hit out at the West for taking issue with the host nation.
It comes as Qatar is being criticised for notions of sportswashing, reports of 6,500 migrant worker deaths, appalling attitudes to LGBTQ+ rights and claims of modern slavery and a host of other problems.
However, Infantino suggested that European nations should be "apologising for the next 3,000 years" for its comments about Qatar.
He went on to suggest that he knows how gay people and migrant workers “feel” in the country, because he was teased as a child for having red hair.
Infantino made the speech ahead of the opening match on SundayChristopher Lee/Getty Images
Infantino said in his speech: “Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arabic. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel [like] a migrant worker.
“Of course I am not Qatari, I am not an Arab, I am not African, I am not gay, I am not disabled. But I feel like it, because I know what it means to be discriminated [against], to be bullied, as a foreigner in a foreign country.
“As a child I was bullied – because I had red hair and freckles, plus I was Italian so imagine. What do you do then? You try to engage, make friends. Don’t start accusing, fighting, insulting, you start engaging. And this is what we should be doing.”
\u201cGianni Infantino says in Doha: \u201cI know what it feels to be discriminated \u2026 I was bullied because I had red hair\u201d\u201d
Infantino went on to say: "For what we Europeans have been doing around the world in the last 3,000 years we should be apologising for the next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons to people.
"How many of these European or Western business companies who earn millions from Qatar, billions, how many of them have addressed migrant workers' rights with the authorities?
"None of them, because if you change the legislation it means less profit. But we did, and FIFA generates much less than any of these companies from Qatar."
He finished by saying: “If you need to criticise anybody, don’t put pressure on the players, the coaches.
“You want to criticise. You can crucify me. I’m here for that. Don’t criticise anyone. Don’t criticise Qatar. Let people enjoy this World Cup.”
Safe to say, his comments didn’t go down well online, with people hitting out at their 'tone-deaf' manner.
\u201cRepulsive. Dangerous. Damaging. Yet this is a man being re-elected as head of FIFA unopposed.\u201d
\u201cGianni Infantino, who earns more than $250,000 a month, says he feels \u2018like a migrant worker\u2019, in a country where migrant workers at this World Cup have been paid as little as 45p an hour, if they have been paid at all.\n\nShameless, brainless, and staggeringly tone-deaf.\u201d
\u201cWhat's really striking about this (absolutely extraordinary) speech from Infantino is how angry and bitter and...unhappy he seems on the eve of what is, in theory, meant to be the world's greatest sporting carnival and his crowning achievement.\u201d
\u201cWhenever someone tries to deflect attention from their own behaviour by saying \u201cbut nobody cares about X\u201d what they always mean is \u201cI personally have never cared about X until this moment when it is suddenly politically convenient for me to pretend that I do\u201d #Infantino\u201d