FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s extraordinary own goal

WCup Qatar Soccer
FIFA President Gianni Infantino speaks at a press conference Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr) Abbie Parr/AP

FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s extraordinary own goal

On Friday, I suggested FIFA’s tolerance of Qatar’s disregard for human rights should be the final nail in the global soccer body’s coffin.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino apparently agrees with me.

That’s the only logical conclusion to make from the absurd rant Infantino offered in Qatar on Saturday. Just one day before the opening game of the 2022 World Cup, Infantino began by declaring “Today I feel Qatari, I feel Arab, I feel African, I feel gay, I feel disabled, I feel a migrant worker.”

These are interesting feelings for a Swiss-Italian multimillionaire heterosexual. No worries, Infantino was quick to explain why he can relate to homosexuals and migrant workers fearful of the treatment Qatar may afford them: “I know what it means to be discriminated and bullied as a foreigner in a foreign country. As a child I was bullied because I had red hair and freckles. I was bullied for that.”

That is a real quote.

Infantino believes that being bullied as a red headed kid with freckles is the same as thousands of migrant workers dying of heat exhaustion after being denied sufficient rest or water. He believes his freckle trauma is the same as a gay person fearing imprisonment or worse for holding hands with their partner at a World Cup. But Infantino was just getting started.

Addressing Qatar’s lethargic pace of worker rights reform and utter disinterest in broader social liberalization in the Arab world (a concern Qatar’s nemesis, Saudi Arabia’s admittedly psychopathic leader is actually addressing), Infantino offered a masterclass in moral relativism. “I am European,” he said, adding to his list of identities. “For what we have been doing for 3,000 years around the world, we should be apologizing for the next 3,000 years before giving moral lessons.”

This is the human rights school of “**** it, we must let the Qataris kill workers and the Chinese Communists wage a genocide against Muslims (side note: Qatar’s Islamic values end with banning beer and gays, not the protection of fellow Muslims) because the Romans annihilated Carthage in 146 BC.”

Of course, history is not supposed to serve as a shield to excuse present day injustices. Rather, it should be considered in its totality. That means reading about Rome’s enslavement of Carthage and also Rome’s instrumental role in developing enduring traditions of governance and law. It means learning from the past and doing better in the future. Moreover, two can play the moral relativity game. Thinking of Qatar, the Umayyad Caliphate wasn’t always nice to its neighbors, for example.

Infantino wasn’t done. Addressing Qatar’s last minute ban on beer in certain areas of stadiums (albeit not the corporate suites), he declared that FIFA was fully on board with the decision. Showing his deep regard for fans who have saved money for years to travel to the tournament, he declared, “I think if for three hours a day you cannot drink a beer, you will survive.”

When he took office, Infantino pledged to reform FIFA . Instead, he has packed its top ranks full of his friends and made himself an ally of corruption. His organization is incapable of reform. The world’s various football associations need to band together to end it.

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