While responding to criticism of Qatar 2022, Gianni Infantino explained why FIFA is anticipating “the best World Cup in history”.
Gianni Infantino expects Qatar 2022 to be “the best World Cup in history”, he told reporters on Saturday while suggesting several criticisms of the finals were hypocritical.
In an extraordinary opening speech, the FIFA president responded to a wide range of issues, claiming he had received “almost threats” around the issue of migrant workers’ rights.
But Infantino’s enthusiasm for the action on the pitch, which begins on Sunday, remained undimmed.
One prominent complaint concerns the staging of the World Cup in the European winter – particularly with matches in some domestic leagues ending less than a week before Qatar’s opener against Ecuador.
Antonio Conte last week described England captain Harry Kane as “very, very tired” due to a relentless schedule ahead of the World Cup, but Infantino hinted that the problem will get worse at the end of the season.
He is of the opinion that this tournament will set a new benchmark.
“When the players played in July, they are really tired, especially the best players who play in the Champions League,” he said.
“It will be an exceptional World Cup and I think we will see the best World Cup in history.”
All eight stadiums used in Qatar are located within a 55km radius of the capital Doha – and Infantino sees this as another big positive.
And he added: “It will be a very compact World Cup. No travel for the teams, ideal conditions, temperatures, venues, hotels, stadiums.
“Everything is done to make them feel good and play well.
“It’s also the first time that fans from all countries come to the same place for the whole tournament. That’s unique.
“When we say that football brings the world together, it is exactly that.”
Infantino is confident fans will enjoy the tournament – “the fans who don’t want to watch, don’t watch,” he added – and his defense of Qatar as hosts went beyond mere logistics.
When Infantino was asked to respond to the description of “mistakes” in the bidding process by predecessor Sepp Blatter, he said: “I have nothing to answer because I was not there. At the time I was even known as one of the biggest critics of FIFA.”
In an hour-long monologue at the start of his press conference, the FIFA boss detailed the steps being taken to improve the rights of migrant workers following the deaths on World Cup construction sites.
However, Infantino was reluctant to accept criticism on the subject from Europe, explaining: “We know that there are many illegal workers in Europe who live in conditions that are not the best.
“Those who get to Europe or want to go to Europe have to go through a very difficult path. Few survive.
“So if you really care about the fate of these people, these young people, then Europe could also do what Qatar did: create legal channels for at least a certain number or percentage of these workers who can come to Europe, give them jobs, a future , hope.
“Obviously there are things that still don’t work in Qatar, but this moral lesson is one-sided, it’s just hypocrisy.”
He said: “I am a European. I think that what we Europeans have been doing for the last 3,000 years, we should apologize for the next 3,000 years before we teach people moral lessons.”