Gary Neville compares Infantino to Boris Johnson and Trump as Qatar World Cup begins

Gary Neville compares Infantino to Boris Johnson and Trump as Qatar World Cup begins
Gary Lineker's Opening World Cup Monologue Addresses Qatar Human Rights Abuses

Gary Neville has delivered a scathing statement on FIFA as the World Cup gets underway in Qatar, hitting out at president Gianni Infantino.

Neville, who is part of the presenting team for beIN Sport during the tournament, was speaking after Infantino gave a bizarre speech about Qatar ahead of the tournament.

He was slammed on social media for his ‘tone-deaf’ speech, after Qatar was 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.

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"I've travelled all around the world playing with Manchester United - to the Middle East to the Far East to Asia to Africa to Australasia - and there's no doubt we should be taking football all around the world," Neville said before the opening game between Qatar and Ecuador on Sunday.

"I mean, he's a terrible face for football - that guy [Infantino]. Some of the things he said yesterday were inappropriate and shouldn't be said by him. He should be statesmanlike - he should be bringing people together.

"He's the global representative of football - not answering to one or two nations, which he seemed to be doing yesterday. He's got to rise above it. I'm sick of these leaders - like Johnson, likes Trump, like Infantino, like [Sepp] Blatter, who to be fair don't unite.

"They divide. All their language is about division. Even though they try to think they're bringing people together - they're not. And I have to say, some of his language yesterday about - 'I'm a migrant worker, I'm disabled' - it's an absolute scandal.

"He shouldn't be using that type of language. He shouldn't be using those phrases, in my opinion. And to be fair I think FIFA is a poor reputation of what football is. It's a beautiful game played by communities from Brazil to Bury to Bolivia to Peru to everywhere.

"And I have to say, I think FIFA need to clean up its act. It's been bad for so long and my personal feeling with Infantino is he's put himself back in power - it looks like - for another four years. There's no transparency, there's no independence."

Neville went on to say: "That's football's problem - it's representative of the hierarchy and elite and rich in life. We've got to have independence, we've got to have a democracy. He's just elected himself back into a position, and then he's the worst face - I think - to try to present a Middle Eastern and an Arab and a Muslin and a Qatar World Cup."

Neville has faced criticism of his own for appearing as part of the beIN Sports team in Qatar.

He recently presented an episode of the BBC political satire panel show Have I Got News For You which saw him grilled by panellists.

"The elephant in the room is you're commentating there. What's the defence?" Ian Hislop asked.

Neville criticised FIFA president InfantinoNaomi Baker/Getty Images

"Yeah, I'm commentating," Neville said. "Well, you've got a choice, haven't you?"

"My view always has been that you either highlight the issues and challenges in these countries and speak about them, or you basically don't say anything and stay back home and don't go. And I think we should challenge them."

However, this answer didn't satisfy Hislop who explained: 'The other option is you stay at home and highlight the abuses. You don't have to take the Qataris' money," causing the audience to applaud in agreement.

"It's just not a very good defence," he added, before questioning along with Madeley how celebrities are meant to "highlight" the issues by attending.

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