Qatar-owned beIN Sports has removed a post on Twitter in which soccer analyst Gary Neville harshly criticized FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
The game’s world governing body has come under fire for its decision to bring the World Cup to Qatar, where the treatment of migrant workers and the rights of LGBTQ+ people have been in the spotlight.
Infantino has come under fire after comparing his own experience as a redheaded boy to that of gay and disabled people in his bizarre speech on Saturday.
The competition began on Sunday when Ecuador beat hosts Qatar 2-0, but in a remarkable hour-long monologue at his final pre-tournament press conference in Doha, Infantino made a series of attention-grabbing remarks.
“Today I have strong feelings,” he said. ‘Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel like a migrant worker. And I feel this because what I have seen and it brings me back to my personal history. I am the son of migrant workers.
‘My parents worked very, very hard and in very, very difficult conditions, not in Qatar, in Switzerland. I remember when I was a child how migrant workers were treated when they were looking for work and I remember what happened to their passports.’
Gary Neville (L) has criticized FIFA President Gianni Infantino (R) as a ‘terrible face for football’
Qatar-owned BeIN Sports removed the Tweet that included a clip of Neville later on Sunday.
Infantino said Europe could “do what Qatar did” by allowing migrant workers in, offering them a “legal” path to come to the country, work and live.
Former Manchester United defender Neville, who works for sports network beIN Sports for the main tournament in Qatar, condemned Infantino as a “terrible face for football” in a clip posted on the broadcaster’s Twitter account.
He compared his bullying as a child for being redheaded with that of the outcasts
He opened his keynote speech in Doha by saying he felt ‘like a migrant worker’
He suggested that if Europe ‘really cared’ about migrant workers, they could do what Qatar did and offer ‘legal’ passage to the countries.
He repeatedly appeared to draw a dividing line between Europe and the hosts
He reaffirmed that everyone was “welcome” in Qatar due to concerns for LGBTQ+ people
In response to a question about Iran’s participation, he suggested that a tournament be held there.
He offered Israelis and Palestinians being in the same country as a potential for a “door” to peace to open.
He suggested that last-minute changes to alcohol policy had brought FIFA and Budweiser closer.
However, the Qatari-owned channel removed the post on Sunday.
“He’s a terrible face for football,” Neville told beIN Sports. Some of the things he said yesterday were inappropriate and he shouldn’t say them.
‘He should be bringing people together. He is the world representative of soccer. He shouldn’t be answering to one or two nations, which is what he seemed to be doing yesterday. He has to rise above that.
‘Some of your language yesterday was an absolute scandal. I shouldn’t be using that kind of language. I shouldn’t be using those phrases.
Neville compared the FIFA president to other controversial world leaders, explaining: “I’m sick of these leaders, like (Boris) Johnson, like (Donald) Trump, like Infantino, like (Sepp) Blatter who don’t unite, they divide.
All their language is about division. Even though they try and think they are bringing people together, they are not.
The expert also talked about how FIFA needed to resurrect its status within football.
He added: “I’ve been all over the world playing for Manchester United, there’s no doubt we should bring football to the whole world.”
‘FIFA is a bad representation of what football is. It’s a beautiful game enjoyed by communities from Brazil to Bury, and I have to say I think FIFA needs to clean up their act. It’s been bad for so long.
Fans noticed the change on beIN Sports’ profile, with one social media user writing, “Bein Sport deleted Gary Neville’s tweet,” followed by a laughing and crying face emoji.
Another added: ‘So this Tweet with Gary Neville’s comments on the FIFA President was deleted. Interesting decision.
Amnesty International had already hit out at Infantino for “disregarding the enormous price paid by migrant workers.”
Former Manchester United defender Neville compared the FIFA president to Donald Trump
Trump shows a red FIFA card with his name on it, given to him by Infantino at the 2018 meeting
Fans saw the change on the beIN Sports profile on Sunday night after the first game of the World Cup.
Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Director of Economic and Social Justice, said in a statement: “By setting aside legitimate human rights criticism, Gianni Infantino is underestimating the enormous price paid by migrant workers to make his flagship tournament possible, thus as the responsibility of FIFA for that.
“Demands for equality, dignity and compensation cannot be treated as some kind of culture war: they are universal human rights that FIFA has committed to uphold in its own statutes.”
While Nicholas McGeechan, director of Fair Square, a human rights research group, said: “Infantino’s comments were as rude as they were clumsy and suggest that the FIFA president gets his talking points directly from the Qatari authorities.” .