Infantino spoke during a press conference on Saturday when he said that criticism of Qatar, which is hosting the soccer tournament, was hypocritical. Infantino, the top official for international soccer competition, said Europe itself had a murky history with human rights.
“I think for what we Europeans have been doing in the last 3,000 years around the world we should be apologizing for the next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons to people,” he said.
Qatar has faced criticism over treatment of migrant workers and its laws outlawing homosexuality as it prepares to host the World Cup, one of the world’s most watched sporting events.
“How many of these European or Western business companies who earn millions and millions from Qatar or other countries in the region, billions every year. How many of them have addressed migrant workers’ rights, with the authorities? I have the answer for you? None of them. Because any change in the legislation means less profit,” Infantino continued.
The soccer exec also claimed that FIFA, which has been dogged with corruption charges for many years, had spoken to authorities in Qatar about human rights concerns. He told those who objected to Qatar’s hosting of the tournament to aim their ire at him and not the Gulf nation, saying they were welcomed to “crucify” him.
“Don’t criticize Qatar,” he added. “Don’t criticize the players. Don’t criticize anyone. Criticize FIFA. Criticize me, if you want. Because I’m responsible for everything.”
When discussing accusations that Qatar has mistreated thousands of migrant workers, Infantino contrasted Qatar, where he said workers came legally, with Europe, which he claimed had tighter borders.
Thousands of migrant workers have died in the past 12 years as the country readied itself for the tournament as many human rights organizations have pressed the country for explanations.
“We in Europe, we close our borders and we don’t allow practically any workers from these countries to work legally in our country. We all know there are many illegal workers in our European countries,” he said.
He added that Europe should model its immigration after that of Qatar.
“So if you would really care about the destiny of these people, these young people, then Europe could also do as Qatar did: create some legal channels where at least a number of these workers could come to Europe, lower revenues, but give them some work, give them some future, give them some hope,” he said.
The press conference came just days after it was announced that viewers of the games would not be allowed to purchase alcohol at the games.
Qatar will play Ecuador on Sunday to kick off the tournament.