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On Eve of World Cup, FIFA President Gianni Infantino Defends Qatar

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He then tackled one issue after one other, expressing his irritation at how, in his mind, the truth of life in Qatar was far different from what was within the pages of newspapers, which he made a degree of claiming he ignored.

He insisted fears over the treatment of LGBTQ+ people attending the World Cup were overstated, and repeatedly said they were welcome in Qatar though homosexuality stays criminalized within the country.

“Everyone’s security is guaranteed, from the very best level of presidency,” Infantino said. “That is the guarantee we’ve given, and we stick to it.”

He then sought to play down Friday’s abrupt U-turn on the supply of beer at stadiums, a last-minute change that shocked the longtime FIFA partner most affected by it, Budweiser. Removed from souring that relationship, Infantino insisted, the sudden rupture had in reality strengthened the connection with the brewer.

He offered no evidence to support his claim, sooner or later after Budweiser had released a press release that looked as if it would grudgingly accept a call — made in consultation between Qatar and FIFA, Infantino insisted — that was out of their control.

That sudden reversal of years of guarantees by tournament organizers had raised questions on FIFA’s authority of its own event, with the beer ban being demanded by probably the most senior Qatari royals. Infantino, nevertheless, insisted that every one decisions, even those made late, and apparently influenced by royal fiat, were made jointly.

“I feel 200 percent in charge of this World Cup,” he said.

Infantino hinted darkly about what underpinned the sudden change of heart on beer, blaming the move on “threats that weren’t known before.” His comments also underlined concerns about Qatar’s suitability to host such a big event: With 4 games per day within the opening group stage, all played in what’s effectively a single city-state, Infantino said the movement of enormous groups of fans inside such a compact environment carried greater risks in the event that they were fueled by beer.

Asked in regards to the appropriateness of his language, Infantino remained unapologetic, doubling down each time he was pressed to elucidate himself.

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