The FIFA president insists World Cup fans can survive without beer

Beleaguered FIFA president Gianni Infantino defended the World Cup in Qatar a day before the tournament kicked off, accusing critics of the country’s human rights record of hypocrisy.

Speaking after months of concern about the country’s treatment of migrant workers, anger over LGBTQ laws, and doubts about the legality of the decision to hold the tournament there, Infantino said it was wrong for Europe to lecture the Qataris.

“For what we Europeans have been doing for the past 3,000 years, we must apologize for the next 3,000 years, before we start giving people moral lessons,” he said on Saturday.

Infantino said there have been improvements in the way migrant workers are treated, in part because of the participation that has occurred as a result of the World Cup. On the eve of one of the most criticized World Cups ever, Infantino said his experience as the son of Italian immigrants in Switzerland allowed him to understand what it was like to be bullied as a foreigner in a foreign country.

He began a speech that lasted about an hour by saying, “Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel helpless. Today I feel like a migrant worker.”

“As a kid at school I was bullied because I had red hair and freckles. Plus, I was Italian, so imagine,” said Infantino.

After a last-minute change was made on Friday to the rules for the sale of alcohol at the event, there are concerns that other regulations governing the tournament may also be changed. Infantino has tried to reassure the LGBTQ community that they will be safe, despite Qatar’s laws prohibiting homosexuality.

He said, “Gays are welcome in Qatar.”

Infantino said the Qatar tournament brought many challenges, including having many courts at a relatively short distance from each other. This was a factor in the new rules for beer, he said, before he shrugged off the ban.

“If this was our biggest problem at the World Cup, I would immediately quit and go to the beach to relax,” Infantino said, adding that fans can survive without beer for three hours.

The FIFA president said the tournament is set to overtake Russia’s World Cup four years ago in terms of media rights, sponsorship and ticketing, which could surpass the previous record of $5.4 billion.

“If many people invest in the World Cup and in Qatar, they are investing because they believe in FIFA and they trust Qatar,” Infantino said.

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