Alex Scott has hit out at FIFA president Gianni Infantino after he gave a bizarre speech defending the decision to stage the World Cup in Qatar, while she also revealed she considered boycotting the tournament.
The 2022 World Cup has been mired by controversy ever since it was awarded to Qatar 12 years ago amid allegations of bribery, while much of the build-up has focused on the country’s archaic laws on homosexuality and its treatment of migrant workers – thousands of whom died constructing stadiums for the tournament.
But Infantino defended the host nation on Saturday, saying: ‘Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel a migrant worker. I know what it feels to be discriminated… I was bullied because I had red hair.
‘I have been speaking about this topic with the highest leadership of the country. I can confirm that everyone is welcome. If you hear a person that says the opposite, it is not the opinion of the country or of FIFA.’
But BBC pundit Scott has rubbished Infantino’s claims and feels FIFA have not done enough to bring about the change and equality they promised – and now claim to have delivered.
Speaking prior to Qatar’s opening match against Ecuador, Scott said: ‘What the FIFA president said right there is confusing and absolutely bizarre. How can you say, “Today I am a migrant worker” – no you are not and you never will be.
‘Yes you have moved forward and now there’s a minimum wage in this country that happened in the last two years, but it’s £1 an hour, £240 a month. Your salary [Infantino] is £1.5million a year or whatever, you’ll never know what it’s like to be a migrant worker. And for families now to lose their loved ones just trying to earn some money.
‘It’s absolutely bizarre. And for FIFA to be awarding clubs compensation over £200m for their players to be playing here, it’s absurd that you’re not even committing to a compensation fund for families.
‘When we sit here, we are in the richest country, FIFA is one of the richest organisations. The great Nelson Mandela said we can use sport to change the world. But these two [Qatar and FIFA] are not, when they can. They can push sport forward and make social change happen.’
Scott respects that stance but felt she could help confront the issues by being in Qatar, continuing: ‘I totally understand their reasons, as well as a whole heap of fans from around the world from the LGBTQ+ community not wanting to travel here.
‘And once again we reference Infantino from what he said: you are not gay, you will never understand travelling to a country where you are fearing for your life just because of your preference of who you choose to love.
‘To keep saying that football is for everyone, that’s what he keeps feeding us with, but we sit here and it’s not [for everyone] because people have not been able to travel to watch their team and support their team out of fear.
‘And actually I’ve had conversations saying, “I should be staying at home, I should be boycotting” and I thought long and hard about it. I think for me personally that would have been the easy option to do just that.
‘I’m here because I love my job and, when I think about it, sitting here and having the harder conversations: we’re talking about the migrant workers, LGBTQ+ community, we’re talking about women’s rights.
‘You think about four years ago, I was the first female pundit for the BBC at a World Cup. You think how far we’ve moved in four years. Let’s hope, in the next four years, we’re never having to have these conversations again.’
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