Saturday, November 19, 2022

FIFA World Cup in Qatar: What if Infatino is right?

Gianni Infantino - Artwork by Tarek Chemaly

File this under unpopular opinion.
In a speech one day prior to the opening of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, head of FIFA Gianni Infantino just made an "incendiary" speech. Anyone who is anyone basically went off against him.
OK to recap some of the things he said was "Today I feel Arabic. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel [like] a migrant worker." All right, the then added when reminded the he feels "like a woman too". He also equated people laughing at him for his red hair and freckles growing up in Switzerland (as an son of Italian immigrants) with the plight of migrant workers.
Of course, on the face of it none of this makes sense.
But sprinkled in the 57 minutes long speech was - some things that made sense.
Well, all right, not to make excuses for the - anywhere between 6500 to 15000 - workers who died building the stadiums in which the games will be played, but Infantino said that at least Qatar accepted the immigrants and gave them work whereas Europe knowingly shut its borders in front of boats trying to access it while full of immigrants. His correct words were:
“Those who reach Europe, or those who want to come to Europe, they have to go through very difficult journeys. Only a few survive. So if you really care about the destiny of these people – these young people – Europe can do as Qatar did. Create some channels, some legal channels, to increase the percentage of these workers to come to Europe. Give them some work. Give them some future.”
About the whole thing about the LGBT fans, Infantino said: "You want to stay at home and say how bad they are, these Arabs, these Muslims, because it’s not allowed to be publicly gay. I believe it should be allowed. But it is a process. If someone thinks that hammering and criticizing will achieve something, well I can tell you it will be exactly the opposite. It will close more doors.” Naturally this does not solve the problem with the code 296 of the Qatar penal code which punishes male homosexuality with 5 years of prison, but when you think that it was actually the British rule which brought with it so many laws against homosexuality in Egypt when bisexuality was considered part of the rural fabric there.
The alcohol ban? Well, he said that if fans cannot stay 3 hours inside the stadium without drinking - which is something that happens in other nations, Infantino goes on to say: "The same rules apply in France, Spain, Portugal and Scotland. Here it has become a big thing, because it is a Muslim country? I don’t know why. We tried and that is why I give you the late change of policy. We tried to see if it was possible."
What Infantino said, and perhaps the way he said it was very very controversial. Oddly, I feel myself arguing with him. He makes sense. Yes, change is a process. And yes, there are very racist undertones to some of the criticisms. Again, I am not defending the death of these workers, but from what I understood from people in Qatar is that major changes happened to workers rights following the controversy. Once more, nothing is perfect, but.... Maybe Europe ought to look at itself in the mirror prior to start throwing stones. And not just Europe, the US as well come to think about it.
In the words of Infantino himself: "I think for what we Europeans have been doing the last 3,000 years we should be apologizing for the next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons to people."