Doha, Mar 31 (EFE).- Criticisms of the 2022 Fifa World Cup being held in Qatar this year are the product of Western bias, Fifa president Gianni Infantino said Thursday.
Speaking at a press conference at the conclusion of the 76th Fifa Congress in Doha, Infantino said the tournament would be an opportunity for Qatar to demonstrate the progress it has made concerning human rights.
Human Rights Watch has accused Qatar of having “discriminatory laws against women,” while “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals continue to face discrimination.”
“There is a bit of a biased view in some parts of the world, from the Western world where I come from, towards the Arab world,” Infantino said.
“I think that this World Cup will be an opportunity for the Arab world, for Qatar, and the whole Gulf region, to present itself to the world to show (…) that actually there are people living here and you can come here and you can feel safe and you can be safe.”
He said the World Cup offered a chance for people from all over the world to travel to Qatar and experience the whole Gulf region, “to meet a new culture, to meet new people, to witness that there is a history, that there is a culture, that progress has been made (…) in terms of human rights.”
Infantino spoke at length about the power the sport can have in uniting the world, and rebuffed criticisms that the tournament was being held in a country with little to no footballing pedigree or traditions.
“This ball,” he said after picking up the official ball that will be used at the tournament, “does not belong to anyone. This ball belongs to everyone. We are all the same in this. We should go to Arab countries.”
Infantino stressed that the World Cup will be the most compact ever held, with the stadiums all within a radius of 50 km.
“Not only fans can watch more than one game per day but more importantly, there is no travel for the players for the national teams. They are here and once they are here, they stay here,” the Fifa president said.
The date of the tournament, which for the first time is being held between November and December, will mean players will be at their peak and won’t “arrive at the World Cup at the end of a very tiring exhausting, especially European season.”
The president, who dodged a question about the presence of Russian delegates at the forum despite a pending ban over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, said he was “very sad, devastated, by what is happening.”
He said football has the power to bring people together and find common ground, “but sadly, we cannot solve conflicts ourselves.” EFE