FIFA President's Qatar Comments Spark Online Criticism: 'Today I Feel Gay'

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has been criticized online after remarks on Saturday defending the hosting of the World Cup in Qatar.

During a press conference in Doha, Infantino addressed the recent criticism of Qatar's stance on the LGBTQ community as well as the country's treatment of migrant workers.

"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," Infantino said.

In an apparent effort to show solidarity with marginalized groups, he added, "I am the son of migrant workers. My parents were working very, very hard, in very, very difficult conditions. Not in Qatar - Switzerland."

In a slightly more defensive tone, he also said: "We have been told many, many lessons from some Europeans, from the western world. I think for what we Europeans have been doing the last 3,000 years we should be apologizing for next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons to people."

Bryan Swanson, FIFA Director of Media Relations, also told the press conference: "I am sitting here as a gay man in Qatar. We have received assurances that everyone will be welcome and I believe everyone will be."

In addition to laws against homosexuality, Qatar has long been accused of mistreating migrant workers.

Infantino's speech was met with a wave of criticism on social media ahead of the first match of the 2022 World Cup on Sunday.

"Gianni Infantino's mad monologue made King Lear look balanced," tweeted Henry Winter, chief football writer for The Times sports desk. "Either nobody close to the Fifa president questions him or gives him good advice - or he simply doesn't listen. He's living in a bubble, turning into Blatter, embarrassing himself and the game."

That was a reference to former FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who is currently banned from participating in FIFA events due to a corruption scandal.

"I love the World Cup because of the memories I had of watching it when I was a kid, but as you get older it's harder to just 'focus on the football' and Infantino's comments have just hammered home why it's important we continue to talk about the dark side of the sport," wrote freelance football writer Casey Evans.

"Some may say 'if you don't like it then don't watch it' but its my first World Cup as a journalist and I think it's important we continue to talk about it candidly while following it if there's any hope of saving the soul of the sport that brings so many people joy," Evans added.

Alex Stewart, head of content at football analytics firm Analytics FC, simply tweeted: "Love football, hate Infantino."

Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital and head of the Global Magnitsky Justice campaign who has worked to fight human rights abuses, called Infantino's remarks "whataboutism. Something Putin also uses to justify his evil."

"This is a prime moment for Qatar to reform," Browder said.

James Sharpe, sports reporter for The Mail on Sunday, said: "Someone, somewhere, wrote this speech and someone, somewhere, thought it was brilliant. And then, obviously, so did Gianni Infantino."

"But today no one feels #Infantino," tweeted Swiss radio and TV journalist Mario Torriani, mocking the FIFA president's remarks.

Newsweek has asked FIFA for comment.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino Speaks in California
FIFA President Gianni Infantino speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, on May 2, 2022. Infantino has been strongly criticized for remarks ahead of the 2022 World Cup. PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP/Getty Images