Fans flying to tournament can expect Qatar fan village to be a £185-a-night unfinished shambles


Fans flying to the FIFA World Cup tournament in Qatar can expect the fan village to be a £185-a-night unfinished shambles where local officials threaten to smash video cameras of unhappy supporters and stop journalists from filming.

With less than 24 hours until the World Cup kicks off with the opening ceremony and clash between the host nation and Ecuador in Doha at the Al Bayt Stadium, the fan villages resemble construction sites.

Footage and images show piles of rubble and sand, ripped up turf and industrial machinery still on-site at the Rawdat Al Jahhaniya fan village, which will be home to thousands of England and Wales fans for the World Cup.

Along with abandoned forklift trucks and a digger next to hundreds of sea containers, promised amenities like a cinema screen and tennis court are also not present, according to The Guardian. 

The ‘fitness centre/gym’ appears to be a few pieces of outdoor equipment close to the main entrance and road of the fan village, which is managed by the operator Al Emadi and next to the Ahmad bin Ali stadium.

The newspaper additionally reported that by the side of a tent, that will be used as a mosque during the tournament, is a giant crater, while a portable Starbucks van and a large tented dining hall will serve as catering for the hungry football fans.

Inside the cabins, which opened on Friday and costs £185 a night for a double cabin for two, tiny air-conditioning units are unable to cool the space during the day and rattle too loudly at night to be usable.

Those paying to stay in the Rawdat Al Jahhaniya accommodation, that will sleep as many as 60,000 people, can look forward to spartan interiors with either two single beds or a double bed, toilet, mini-fridge and tea and coffee-making facilities.

The fan villages resemble construction sites

Ripped turf at a fan village in Qatar which look more like construction sites just hours before the tournament is set to commence

More than a million people are expected to descend on the small desert peninsula - with a population of just 300,000 excluding expats and migrant workers - over the course of the tournament, which will last almost a month from November 20 until December 18

More than a million people are expected to descend on the small desert peninsula – with a population of just 300,000 excluding expats and migrant workers – over the course of the tournament, which will last almost a month from November 20 until December 18

Tiny beds and paper-thin walls greet those who chose to stay in the tent accommodation at the fan villages for the Qatar World Cup

Tiny beds and paper-thin walls greet those who chose to stay in the tent accommodation at the fan villages for the Qatar World Cup

‘This is what £185 [$330AUD] a night gets you in the Qatar World Cup fan village. Good luck getting any rest. The noise of the air conditioner [that doesn’t keep the container cool during the day] helps drown out the rest of the racket,’ one fan posted along with video footage on TikTok.

It is the latest controversy for the tournament which has already attracted complaints over cracks and holes inside stadium grounds and a last-minute U-turn to ban beer from stadiums that left fans fuming.

More than a million people are expected to descend on the small desert peninsula – with a population of just 300,000 excluding expats and migrant workers – over the course of the tournament, which will last almost a month from November 20 until December 18. 

The Times has also posted accounts of the fan accommodation from two contractors that were on-site and paid to put it all together.

‘It has been hell. The aircon in the cabin barely works and sounds like a (fighter jet) is taking off. Even if you have it on all the time during the day it is still 27C. You can’t have it on at night because it is so noisy,’ one said.

‘They are rock hard so you might as well sleep on the floor,’ he said. ‘I have never been somewhere so uncomfortable. We have been here for 10 days and it is a nightmare. It might be OK if you want to rough it for a night or two, but any longer would be dreadful.’ 

The latest images and footage of the accommodation awaiting fans that have spend thousands has many comparing the village to a detention centre. 

‘Looks more like quarantine camp,’ one fan posted.

‘Bros paid money to go into quarantine,’ said another.

A Qatar official and security guard threaten to smash a camera belonging to an accredited media team. Qatar officials later apologised for the incident

A Qatar official and security guard threaten to smash a camera belonging to an accredited media team. Qatar officials later apologised for the incident

Inside the cabins, which opened on Friday and costs £172 a night for a double cabin for two, tiny air-conditioning units are unable to cool the space during the day and rattle too loudly at night to be usable

Inside the cabins, which opened on Friday and costs £172 a night for a double cabin for two, tiny air-conditioning units are unable to cool the space during the day and rattle too loudly at night to be usable

Alongside abandoned forklift trucks and a digger next to hundreds of sea containers, promised amenities like a cinema screen and tennis court are also not present

The latest images and footage of the accommodation awaiting fans that have spend thousands has many comparing the village to a detention centre

Alongside abandoned forklift trucks and a digger next to hundreds of sea containers, promised amenities like a cinema screen and tennis court are also not present

Those paying to stay in the Rawdat Al Jahhaniya accommodation, that will sleep as many as 60,000 people, can look forward to spartan interiors with either two single beds or a double bed, toilet, mini-fridge and tea and coffee-making facilities

Those paying to stay in the Rawdat Al Jahhaniya accommodation, that will sleep as many as 60,000 people, can look forward to spartan interiors with either two single beds or a double bed, toilet, mini-fridge and tea and coffee-making facilities

It is the latest controversy for the tournament which has already attracted complaints over cracks and holes inside stadium grounds and a last-minute U-turn to ban beer from stadiums that left fans fuming

It is the latest controversy for the tournament which has already attracted complaints over cracks and holes inside stadium grounds and a last-minute U-turn to ban beer from stadiums that left fans fuming

‘Kind of looks like a Swedish prison,’ added another.

‘I’ve been on work locations in middle of nowhere with better conditions and they paid me,’ a worker posted.

Others are already comparing the 2022 Qatar World Cup to the infamous Fyre Festival. 

Fyre festival was a failed luxury music festival founded by con artist Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule.

Guests were promised A-list entertainment and luxury accommodation on a deserted island but none of it was delivered. 

‘It took 5 yrs but they finally got the FYRE festival villas complete,’ one fan joked. 

‘You got a porta cabin what more you want?’ said another, tongue firmly in cheek.

‘And you expected what? In what is essentially a desert,’ posted another.

While some fans are in for disappointment, other visitors have already found themselves on the wrong side of Qatar security. 

Security guards will reportedly patrol the fan village 24 hours a day, with one site organiser saying: ‘Security won’t be an issue. There will be guards who will stop people coming in.’

Amenities in each cabin include tea- and coffee-making facilities, two bottles of water per day, a fridge, bed linen and bathroom towels

Amenities in each cabin include tea- and coffee-making facilities, two bottles of water per day, a fridge, bed linen and bathroom towels

Amenities in each cabin include tea- and coffee-making facilities, two bottles of water per day, a fridge, bed linen and bathroom towels

The newspaper reported that by the side of a tent, that will be used as a mosque during the tournament, is a giant crater, while a portable Starbucks van and a large tented dining hall will serve as catering for the hungry football fans

The newspaper reported that by the side of a tent, that will be used as a mosque during the tournament, is a giant crater, while a portable Starbucks van and a large tented dining hall will serve as catering for the hungry football fans

Is this the theatre that Qatar promised guests? Those looking to watch games will need to endure the searing desert sun

Is this the theatre that Qatar promised guests? Those looking to watch games will need to endure the searing desert sun

An entry of Caravan City, an ongoing project to host fans during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at Al Messila

An entry of Caravan City, an ongoing project to host fans during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at Al Messila

Fan Village Caravan City is advertised as offering 'a choice of accommodation types with amenities, including air conditioning, WiFi, a Smart TV and housekeeping every two days'

Fan Village Caravan City is advertised as offering ‘a choice of accommodation types with amenities, including air conditioning, WiFi, a Smart TV and housekeeping every two days’

The Qatar website also reads: 'The facilities feature an entertainment area, 24-hour restaurant and cafe, a clinic and 24-hour security. On-site transportation will take guests from their caravan units to reception'

The Qatar website also reads: ‘The facilities feature an entertainment area, 24-hour restaurant and cafe, a clinic and 24-hour security. On-site transportation will take guests from their caravan units to reception’

'Just a short distance away are Al Asmakh and Al Mirqab malls. Joaan Metro Station is just 500m away, so fans can easily explore Doha. Six of the FIFA World Cup™ stadiums are within a 20-minute drive'

‘Just a short distance away are Al Asmakh and Al Mirqab malls. Joaan Metro Station is just 500m away, so fans can easily explore Doha. Six of the FIFA World Cup™ stadiums are within a 20-minute drive’

However, Danish international correspondent Rasmus Tantholdt posted footage online being harassed by Qatar officials and security. 

He posted: ‘We now got an apology from Qatar International Media Office and from Qatar Supreme Commitee. This is what happened when we were broadcasting live’.

During the video Tantholdt switches between English and Danish as an official puts his hand over the camera lens.

‘Mr, you invited the whole world to come here, why can’t we film? It’s a public place,’ he asks.

‘This is our accreditation, we can film anywhere we want. No, no we don’t need permits.’

As the requests to move on turn to threats, he says: ‘You want to break the camera? OK let’s break the camera. You’re threatening us by smashing the camera’.

Elsewhere, Irish journalist Tony O’Donoghue was stopped by police while filming on Thursday, although he explained the incident stemmed from poor communication.

Excited England fans were dreaming of bringing the World Cup home as they set off on their seven-hour flight to Doha.

Excited England fans were dreaming of bringing the World Cup home as they set off on their seven-hour flight to Doha. Pictured: Russell Dodds

Excited England fans were dreaming of bringing the World Cup home as they set off on their seven-hour flight to Doha. Pictured: Russell Dodds

Chris Bagnall, 61, a shop fitter from New Zealand, said: 'It should be a great event. I'm a little disappointed they've changed the concessions of no alcohol in the stadiums at the last minute'

Chris Bagnall, 61, a shop fitter from New Zealand, said: ‘It should be a great event. I’m a little disappointed they’ve changed the concessions of no alcohol in the stadiums at the last minute’

Proud supporters – many wearing the red and white colours of England – were in buoyant mood at the airport.

Chris Bagnall, 61, a shop fitter from New Zealand, said: ‘It should be a great event.

‘I’m a little disappointed they’ve changed the concessions of no alcohol in the stadiums at the last minute.’

Chris, originally from Barnsley, said: ‘I’m flying from Manchester because it was cheaper than flying from New Zealand, and I’ve been over here to visit my mum.

‘This will be my third World Cup. I went to Russia, which everyone said would be rubbish, but it was brilliant.

‘I’ve also been to Brazil. For me, every World Cup should be play there because there’s no better place than Copacabana Beach to have a beer and watch the football.

‘I’m meeting seven friend over there and we’re hoping that England do well.’

Richard Dennison, 52, from Worksop, has been to the World Cup in France and Brazil.

He said: ‘We have got conditional tickets all the way to the final if England manage to make it that far.

‘I hope they do but we’ll have to wait and see.

‘I would have preferred the World Cup not to be held in Qatar but that’s corrupt FIFA for you.

‘I thing England will make it to the semis before being knocked out.’

Richard Dennison, 52, an internet consultant from Worksop, said: ‘I have been following England around the world for years.

Richard Dennison, 52, from Worksop, has been to the World Cup in France and Brazil. He said: 'We have got conditional tickets all the way to the final if England manage to make it that far'

Richard Dennison, 52, from Worksop, has been to the World Cup in France and Brazil. He said: ‘We have got conditional tickets all the way to the final if England manage to make it that far’

Barry Hart, 42, was travelling to Doha, with his son, Nathan. The contracts manager, from Blackpool, said: 'We have family who live out there so we are seeing football and the family'

Barry Hart, 42, was travelling to Doha, with his son, Nathan. The contracts manager, from Blackpool, said: ‘We have family who live out there so we are seeing football and the family’

‘My first was in Madrid in 1987, when England beat Spain 4-2 and Gary Lineker scored all four.

‘It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there’s a beer ban in the stadium. It happens quite regularly elsewhere.

‘The World Cup is always a big tournament and I don’t see this being any different, when you get away from the politics.

‘England will get to the semi-finals before getting knocked out by Argentina.’

Barry Hart, 42, was travelling to Doha, with his son, Nathan.

The contracts manager, from Blackpool, said: ‘We have family who live out there so we are seeing football and the family.

‘We’ve got tickets for England’s group games and I’m confident we’ll win the group but after that, who knows?

‘We are out there for two weeks but if England do manage to reach the final, then I think I’ll be negotiating a second trip!’

Son Nathan, 13, added: ‘I am really excited and all my mates are really jealous that I’m going to the World Cup!

‘I don’t think we will win the group. I think we’ll finish second after the USA.

‘I don’t think we’ll get any further than the quarter finals and be beaten by the Netherlands.’

It comes as furious football fans started demanding refunds from World Cup bosses, saying handing the tournament to Qatar has ‘ruined’ it after a shock announcement yesterday revealed alcohol is banned from all stadiums. 

Fans watching games at the World Cup will be unable to purchase any alcohol on site, instead only being able to buy it in designated Fan Zones away from stadiums

Fans watching games at the World Cup will be unable to purchase any alcohol on site, instead only being able to buy it in designated Fan Zones away from stadiums

Empty Budweiser stands, which would have sold beer to fans before and after matches, now stand empty and will only be able to sell Bud Zero instead

Empty Budweiser stands, which would have sold beer to fans before and after matches, now stand empty and will only be able to sell Bud Zero instead

England fans already in Qatar have slammed FIFA as a ‘disgrace’ for the unexpected booze ban, adding that attending the tournament ‘feels like Big Brother’ is in charge.

Only a few hundred England fans were in Doha when FIFA announced that alcohol would not be sold on stadium concourses after coming under pressure from the Qatari Royal family.

The ban came as a shock to most fans after FIFA had previously reassured them that despite the country’s strict alcohol laws, they would be able to purchase it while enjoying the games. But those fortunate enough to be sat in corporate boxes, where tickets cost more than $22,450 each, will still be able to enjoy an array of alcoholic drinks. 

Qatar enforces an extremely strict interpretation of Islam which restricts women’s rights and criminalises members of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as banning public displays of affection and public alcohol consumption. 

It is somewhat of an embarrassment for FIFA after Budweiser was announced as one of the sponsors for the tournament, and had been granted a monopoly to sell beer at the stadiums. It will now only be able to sell its alcohol-free version of beer there.

It was to sell alcoholic beer within the ticketed perimeter surrounding each of the eight stadiums three hours before and one hour after each game. 

England fans told MailOnline the tournament has been ‘ruined’ and FIFA should not have ‘given in’, complaining they would not have spent thousands of pounds on tickets and flights if they had known about the ban beforehand.

Qatar had previously promised to respect the tournament’s sponsors.

It is just the latest controversy surrounding this year’s world cup following the scandal over the deaths of more than 6,000 migrant workers while building the stadiums and the appalling state of LGBT+ rights in the country. 

Budweiser is a major sponsor of the World Cup in Qatar, but no longer has its agreed monopoly on sales of alcohol in and around stadiums

Budweiser is a major sponsor of the World Cup in Qatar, but no longer has its agreed monopoly on sales of alcohol in and around stadiums

A Budweiser beer stand at the Fan Festival ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, one of the few places fans can now access alcohol

A Budweiser beer stand at the Fan Festival ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, one of the few places fans can now access alcohol

Budweiser - one of the World Cup's largest sponsors - tried to make light of the situation in a now-deleted tweet

Budweiser – one of the World Cup’s largest sponsors – tried to make light of the situation in a now-deleted tweet

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has since lashed out at European critics of World Cup host Qatar after the state banned the sale of beer in its stadiums two days before the start of the competition.

Mr Infantino criticised those speaking out against Qatar’s human rights abuses and management of the World Cup and dismissed complaints over the alcohol ban. 

Yesterday, the Qatari royal family demanded that no alcohol be sold inside stadiums at the competition despite FIFA’s £63 million sponsorship deal with Budweiser. 

Alcohol is normally severely restricted in Qatar, with sales limited for tourists to some hotels and restaurants. 

Fans arriving in the gulf state from around the world will now only be able to buy beer in ‘fan zones’ where a pint will cost £12 and supporters are restricted to just four drinks each to stop them from getting drunk. 

Mr Infantino reacted furiously to a backlash from Europeans over the ban, suggesting fans should not complain about not being able to drink.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino attacked criticism of Qatar in a fiery press conference today

FIFA president Gianni Infantino attacked criticism of Qatar in a fiery press conference today

US football fan Brian Davidson became the first supporter to drink a beer in Qatar after queuing for two hours and paying £12 for a pint

US football fan Brian Davidson became the first supporter to drink a beer in Qatar after queuing for two hours and paying £12 for a pint 

He told a press conference: ‘Honestly, if this is the biggest issue we have for the World Cup, I will sign immediately, go to the beach and relax until the 18th of December. 

‘Every decision we take at this World Cup is a joint decision between Qatar and FIFA.

‘I think personally if for three hours a day, you cannot drink a beer, you will survive.’ 

The FIFA president added: ‘What we Europeans have been doing for the past 3,000 years, we should be apologizing for the next 3,000 years before we start giving moral lessons to people.’

He said Qatar and capital city Doha will be ready to host the ‘best World Cup ever.’

‘Today I feel Qatari,’ Infantino said. ‘Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel a migrant worker.’

Infantino related the criticism to bullying and discrimination he said he experienced as a child of Italian parents who moved to work in Switzerland.

Qatar has banned the sale of alcohol inside its stadiums despite a multimillion pound sponsorship deal with Budweiser

Qatar has banned the sale of alcohol inside its stadiums despite a multimillion pound sponsorship deal with Budweiser 

He said European nations have closed their borders to immigrants who wanted to work there, whereas Qatar had offered opportunities to workers from India, Bangladesh and other southeast Asian nations through legal channels.

Migrant laborers who built Qatar’s World Cup stadiums often worked long hours under harsh conditions and were subjected to discrimination, wage theft and other abuses as their employers evaded accountability, London-based rights group Equidem said in a 75-page report released this month.

The Guardian previously reported that more than 6,500 migrant workers had died building Qatar’s World Cup infrastructure.  

Under heavy international scrutiny, Qatar has enacted a number of labor reforms in recent years that have been praised by Equidem and other rights groups. 

But advocates say abuses are still widespread and that workers have few avenues for redress.

Mr Infantino said: ‘What has been put on the table in the past few months is something quite incredible.

He also has hit out at reports of ‘fake’ football fans featured in videos in Qatar ahead of the World Cup.

The controversy emerged after a number of videos were posted online featuring Indian expats expressing their support for Gareth Southgate’s squad in the upcoming tournament.

One particular video of fans engaging in a rendition of David Baddiel, Frank Skinner, and The Lightning Seeds’ 1996 classic ‘Three Lions’ went viral online, with some commenters alleging that the fans were, in fact, paid actors.

Gianni Infantino condemned allegations that Indian football supporters were paid actors

Gianni Infantino condemned allegations that Indian football supporters were paid actors

FIFA President called accusations that the fans had been paid to express support ‘pure racist’ 

The fans gathered to show their support for Gareth Southgate's squad as they arrived in Qatar

The fans gathered to show their support for Gareth Southgate’s squad as they arrived in Qatar

Speaking ahead of the tournament’s opener between the hosts and Ecuador on Sunday, Infantino condemned the accusations, calling them ‘racist’.

‘I am reading that these people don’t look English so they can’t cheer for England, they look like Indians. What is that? Can someone who looks Indian not cheer for England, Spain or Germany?

‘You know what it is? It is racist, pure racist.’

The allegations were also denied in a statement by the Supreme Committee, calling reports of fake fans ‘disappointing and unsurprising’

‘Fans from all over the world – many of whom have made Qatar their home – have contributed to the local atmosphere recently, organising fan walks and parades throughout the country, and welcoming the various national teams at their hotels.’

‘Numerous journalists and commentators on social media have questioned whether these are ‘real’ fans. We thoroughly reject these assertions, which are both disappointing and unsurprising.’

FIFA chief Gianni Infantino lashes out at Qatar’s critics in a bizarre speech before the World Cup… claiming he ‘feels disabled, gay and like a migrant worker’ after being bullied for his RED HAIR as a kid

ByJulian Bovill For Mailonline

FIFA president Gianni Infantino hit out at criticism of Qatar from Europe on the eve of the World Cup.

The game’s global governing body has been attacked for its decision to take the finals to Qatar, where the treatment of migrant workers and the rights of LGBTQ+ people have been in the spotlight.

Ahead of the opening game of the tournament on Sunday, Infantino said: ‘We have told many, many lessons from some Europeans, from the western world.

‘I think for what we Europeans have been doing the last 3,000 years we should be apologising for next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons to people.’

Infantino added: ‘Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arabic. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel (like) a migrant worker.

‘Of course I am not Qatari, I am not an Arab, I am not African, I am not gay, I am not disabled. But I feel like it, because I know what it means to be discriminated, to be bullied, as a foreigner in a foreign country. As a child I was bullied – because I had red hair and freckles, plus I was Italian so imagine.

‘What do you do then? You try to engage, make friends. Don’t start accusing, fighting, insulting, you start engaging. And this is what we should be doing.’

In a remarkable hour-long monologue at his final pre-tournament press conference in Doha, Infantino made a number of statements that caused raised eye brows and sharp intakes of breath inside the auditorium. 

  • He compared his bullying as a young child for being red-headed to the marginalised 
  • Opened his keynote speech in Doha saying that he felt ‘like a migrant worker’
  • Suggested if Europe ‘really cared’ about migrant workers they could do as Qatar did and offer a ‘legal’ passage into the countries
  • Repeatedly appeared to draw a dividing line between Europe and the hosts
  • Reaffirmed that all were ‘welcome’ in Qatar over concerns for LGBTQ+ individuals
  • In response to a question over Iran’s participation suggested a tournament be held there
  • Offered up Israelis and Palestinians being in the same country as potential for a ‘door’ being opened to peace 
  • Suggested that the last minute changes to alcohol policy had brought FIFA and Budweiser ‘closer’
Gianni Infantino hit out at critics of the host nation before appearing to compare his own experience to that of the marginalised

Gianni Infantino hit out at critics of the host nation before appearing to compare his own experience to that of the marginalised 

Infantino said that Europe could ‘do as Qatar’ did in letting in migrant workers, offering a ‘legal’ path for them to come to the country and work and live. 

‘If Europe would really care about the destiny of these young people,’ Infantino said in reference to the migrant workers. ‘Europe could do as Qatar did, create some legal channels, where at least a number, a percentage of these workers could come.’

‘Lower revenues … but give them some hope, give them some future. This means we shouldn’t point to what doesn’t work, here in Qatar as well, of course, there are some things that don’t work that need to be addressed. This moral lesson giving, one-sided, it’s just hypocrisy.’

‘Who is actually caring about the workers? FIFA does, football does, the World Cup does & to be fair to them Qatar does as well,’ he added.

The tournament has been engulfed by controversy around human rights issues in Qatar

Infantino said that if Europe ‘really cared’ about the migrant workers they would do as Qatar did in creating ‘legal channels’ for them to come in

Asked about the safety of homosexual supporters travelling to the country – Qatar is ranked as one of the most dangerous places on earth to be gay – Infantino said he and the organisers had ‘confirmed’ that all were welcome. 

‘They’ve (Qatari organisers) confirmed and I can confirm that everyone is welcome. If you have a person here and there who says the opposite, it’s not the opinion of the country, it’s certainly not the opinion of FIFA,’ he said. 

He compared the present situation to that of Switzerland in 1954 when it hosted the tournament, where homosexuality was also outlawed. 

‘Like for the workers these are processes,’ he said. ‘Of course I believe it should be allowed as FIFA president, but I went through a process’.   

‘We should all educate ourselves. Reform and change takes time, it took hundreds of years in our countries in Europe where we think we’ve achieved the top. I wonder if that’s the case,’ he added.

‘The only way of obtaining results is by engaging, dialogue. Not by hammering, insulting. When your child does something bad at school and you tell him you’re an idiot, you’re useless and you put him up in his room, what do you think his reaction will be?

‘If you engage with him, he will recognise that and he will be better. I don’t want to give you any lessons of life, but what is going on here is profoundly unjust.

‘Europe is a heart of multicultural tolerance but even in Europe there are things that are not good. We should look at ourselves before criticising others.’

Peter Tatchell said he was arrested in Qatar after staging what he claimed was the country's first LGBT protest - it was a claim disputed by Qatar themselves

Peter Tatchell said he was arrested in Qatar after staging what he claimed was the country’s first LGBT protest – it was a claim disputed by Qatar themselves

Infantino at times appeared frustrated as he spoke to the media at a press conference in Qatar

Infantino at times appeared frustrated as he spoke to the media at a press conference in Qatar

It has been reported by a number of sources that as many as 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since preparations for the World Cup began. Qatar has built stadia, hotels, a deep-sea port, an expansion to the airport and an entire new metro system in preparation for the tournament. 

Infantino claimed he addressed the matter of migrant workers ‘straight on’ when he arrived three years ago. 

‘I came here three years ago and addressed the matter of migrant workers straight on, from my very first meeting,’ he said. 

Infantino earlier this year faced criticism with human rights bodies such as Amnesty and FairSquare when he told the European Council in Strasbourg that only ‘three’ migrant workers had died. That particular number appears to come from the Qatari authorities themselves, traced back to their own Workers Welfare Progress Reports. It is a number that has been highly contested by the likes of Amnesty. 

Similarly, he also told the same body in Strasbourg that FIFA’s controversial plans for a biennial World Cup could be decisive in the refugee crisis.   

‘We need to give hope to Africans so they don’t need to cross the Mediterranean in order to find, maybe, a better life but more probably death in the sea.

‘We need to give opportunities and we need to give dignity, not by giving charity but by allowing the rest of the world to participate,’ he said. 

The FIFA president has come under fire for his controversial statements given just a day out from the start of the tournament

The FIFA president has come under fire for his controversial statements given just a day out from the start of the tournament

Critics then labelled Infantino’s comments as crass and lacking in considered thought. Human rights bodies were lining up to label Infantino’s comments in Doha on Saturday in a similar manner. 

Controversially, Iran – who play England at 1pm GMT on Monday – have been allowed to remain in the tournament despite widespread crackdown on protests in the country. 

Mahsa Amini died on 16 September allegedly for not wearing her hijab correctly and wearing skinny jeans after being arrested by the country’s morality police – essentially, in charge of enforcing its strict laws and customs. The country denies her cause of death, saying it was due to underlying health conditions. 

Over 15,000 protestors have been arrested in the country, with death penalties a distinct possibility for many.

Asked about whether or not a country such as Iran should be taking part, Infantino once again trotted out the line that it was ‘football’. ‘What does the world have?’ if not football to bring them together, he went on.

He went on to suggest hosting the tournament in the country. ‘If we should go with a tournament to Iran, let’s go because maybe that will change something,’ he said. 

Infantino, then, offered up ‘Palestinians and Israelis’ being able to come together as a positive reason for hosting the World Cup in the country. 

‘Maybe it is just during the World Cup, but it is a door that has been opened,’ he said. 

The FIFA president suggested a door could 'open' between Israel and Palestine due to the presence of both in Qatar over the next month

The FIFA president suggested a door could ‘open’ between Israel and Palestine due to the presence of both in Qatar over the next month

His director of media relations, former Sky Sports News reporter Bryan Swanson, delivered a short defence of the FIFA president after questions from the media had finished saying that Infantino cared about gay people, despite himself not being gay.

‘I’m sitting here as a gay man in Qatar,’ Swanson said. ‘We have received assurances that everyone is welcome and I believe everybody will be welcome. Just because he is not gay does not mean he doesn’t care. He does care. We care about everyone and are inclusive.’

Furthermore, Infantino was asked what his feelings were surrounding the most  controversial World Cup perhaps in a generation. Looking weary at this stage, he said that ‘since 2016 we have made tangible, tangible’ progress since he came to power. 

Asked to address supporters who are protesting against the tournament by not watching it, Infantino said: ‘To the fans who are not going to watch the World Cup, well, don’t watch it. What do you want me to tell them? I am convinced they will.

‘It’s like in these polls we have seen very recently…in some countries that say it’s bad to watch the World Cup because it’s in Qatar and it’s FIFA and look this bad guy. [But] privately when they go home, of course they watch it. Because when you’re a football fan, there’s nothing bigger than the World Cup. We will have five billion people watching it. Those who watch it, officially and privately, they will see the best football ever and they will see the biggest emotions ever.’

Infantino took questions from the press on a range of issues from migrant workers to the late changes to logistics surrounding the tournament

Infantino took questions from the press on a range of issues from migrant workers to the late changes to logistics surrounding the tournament

It is the latest in a series of controversial incidents that have marred the build up to the tournament. On Friday, it was reported – and then confirmed by the relevant parties themselves – that beer would no longer be sold in stadiums, potentially throwing FIFA into a major legal dispute with one of their biggest sponsors, Budweiser, with whom they have a multi-million pound contract. 

It was announced beer and other alcoholic drinks would still be available in the corporate seats. 

Responding to a question on the topic, Infantino said: ‘If this is the biggest issue we have … I will go to the beach and relax until 18th of December.

‘Every decision is discussed, debated and taken jointly.  

‘Maybe there is a reason why in France, in Spain or in Scotland alcohol is banned from stadiums. Maybe they are more intelligent than us having thought maybe we should be doing that. I think it is never too late to change – maybe we will have to do other changes in between on other topics. When it comes to the security of people – you spoke about LGBT [people] – everyone’s security is granted,’ he said. 

Fans who are attending the World Cup as part of a paid-for supporters programme have had their daily allowance of £60 cut, according to reports

Fans who are attending the World Cup as part of a paid-for supporters programme have had their daily allowance of £60 cut, according to reports 

‘Everyone’s security is guaranteed from the highest level in the country. This is the guarantee we gave and we give.’

He added: ‘I think this decision taken has brought us even closer (FIFA and Budweiser).’ 

Meanwhile, seemingly after a string of negative stories surrounding the ploy, fans travelling to the country as part of the Fan Leader Programme – in which supporters from each of the 32 nations were involved – have been told that their daily allowance of £60 has been cut. 

According to The Guardian, the allowance was cut just as supporters were getting ready to travel to the country. Many were relying on it as their daily food and drink budget. 

Asked about the scheme in the context of supporters appearing outside England’s hotel perhaps being part of the scheme, Infantino suggested it was ‘racist’ to question it.

‘People shouldn’t cheer for English because they don’t look English? This is racism,’ he said.

EXCLUSIVE: This will be the best World Cup ever says 18-stone England superfan famous for stripping off in the crowd – even if he can’t get his belly out or drink beer at the games 

ByRoss Slater For Mailonline 

An England fan weighing 18 stones and famous for watching matches with his top off says Qatar will still be the best World Cup ever, despite killjoy officials banning him from getting his belly out or drinking beer in the stadiums.

As hordes of excited Three Lions fans are heading to airports to jet out to Qatar for England’s opening match with Iran on Monday, tattooed Paul Gregory said he would be getting stuck into his last beer ‘for a while’ in the departure lounge.

Paul, affectionately known as Tango Man, said: ‘No drinking in the stadium or even near the stadium is a bit of a shocker. And Budweiser is one of the sponsors, so I thought we’d be safe on that score.

‘Fifa might be causing themselves problems with that decision because fans like to have a few beers before the game. 

‘Now, rather than arriving at the stadium in good time, they’ll be leaving it to the last minute to get on the metro.’

Paul admitted he is ‘really disappointed’ after the Football Association told him the straight-laced hosts told him to keep his top on during games.

It’s a bitter irony for Paul, 59, that after exposing his torso in all weathers following Sheffield Wednesday and England, he is now banned from doing it at the hottest venue ever. 

As hordes of excited Three Lions fans are heading to airports to jet out to Qatar for England's opening match with Iran on Monday, tattooed Paul Gregory said he would be getting stuck into his last beer 'for a while' in the departure lounge

As hordes of excited Three Lions fans are heading to airports to jet out to Qatar for England’s opening match with Iran on Monday, tattooed Paul Gregory said he would be getting stuck into his last beer ‘for a while’ in the departure lounge

Paul admitted he is 'really disappointed' after the Football Association told him the straight-laced hosts told him to keep his top on during games

Paul admitted he is ‘really disappointed’ after the Football Association told him the straight-laced hosts told him to keep his top on during games

‘The FA asked the question,’ he said, ‘and they said “No”, so I will be wearing a bright, orange t-shirt instead.

‘I’m a bit gutted really. I am something of a talisman for the England team with my shirt off. Everyone recognises me and it has never caused a problem or caused offence to anyone. It is like a trademark and it will seem odd to be at a football match with my shirt on.

‘We’ll just have to see what the vibe is really like when we get there. People say all sorts but then in the heat of the moment who knows how it will go.’

Similarly, Paul’s girlfriend Rachel, 51, a lorry driver from Barnsley who shares his love of Sheffield Wednesday, will also have to observe previously unknown etiquettes in the Gulf Kingdom.

‘She’ll have to cover her shoulders and wear shorts down to her knee,’ he said. ‘She’ll be more affected than me because she likes the hot weather. I hate it. I like the cold, that’s why I always take my shirt off.’

Whether Paul will be able to keep to this rule under the pressure of an England match in 35-degree heat is yet be seen.

Sitting in a pair of shorts and flip-flops on a cold November day, he isn’t sure. ‘Who knows,’ he said.

Despite his hatred of the heat, the prospect of £13 pints in the fan zones and the concerns about Qatar as a venue, Paul said nothing was going to stop him from cheering on England.

‘Following England is what we do,’ he said. ‘It doesn’t matter the venue. I feel sorry for what has happened over there with regards to deaths of workers, but if England are playing then I’ll be there.

‘We have saved for three years for this. My partner and I put aside £100-a-month as an England kitty. We don’t go to the pub or to concerts and, yes, we are very privileged to be going but this is what we spend on.’

It's a bitter irony for Paul, 59, that after exposing his torso in all weathers following Sheffield Wednesday and England, he is now banned from doing it at the hottest venue ever

It’s a bitter irony for Paul, 59, that after exposing his torso in all weathers following Sheffield Wednesday and England, he is now banned from doing it at the hottest venue ever

Whether Paul will be able to keep to this rule under the pressure of an England match in 35-degree heat is yet be seen

Whether Paul will be able to keep to this rule under the pressure of an England match in 35-degree heat is yet be seen

Paul, who is covered with tattoos devoted to football and family, was dubbed Tango Man over 30 years ago while watching his beloved Sheffield Wednesday play Crystal Palace.

He recalled: ‘The Palace fans all started shouting, “You Fat B******d” at me and I was stood next to this lad who was twice my size.

‘He said, “Can you hear what they are saying to you?” which I thought was a cheek coming from him, but I just took my top off to help defuse the situation and then they started shouting “Tango” and it just stuck.’

Paul, a father of two, who has never been in trouble in all the years of following his country, first travelled to watch England at the World Cup in Spain in 1982.

‘It gave me the bug,’ he said. ‘All the rooms were triple booked and there were loads of us all thrown into rooms together.

‘England fans get a very bad press but it was like being part of a big family. Everyone supported different clubs but we all come together.’

Paul admits that fewer travelling England fans are travelling this time and they may be outnumbered by Iranians for the first match but he remains resolutely optimistic.

‘It’s a one-off,’ he said, ‘we’ll never have one at this time of year again so it just adds to the spice of it.

‘There was loads of negativity about Russia being the host and people saying we shouldn’t be going but that was the best one I have been to. It was absolutely fantastic.

Despite his hatred of the heat, the prospect of £13 pints in the fan zones and the concerns about Qatar as a venue, Paul said nothing was going to stop him from cheering on England

Despite his hatred of the heat, the prospect of £13 pints in the fan zones and the concerns about Qatar as a venue, Paul said nothing was going to stop him from cheering on England

‘I’ll never forget us all drinking with the Russian fans in Red Square and going for a six or seven mile walk through all the backstreets of Moscow.

‘I hope this will be another one, billed as the worst World Cup ever, that will prove otherwise. I know it will be quieter without so many bars but you’ll always find somewhere.’

The cost is great, however, and the longer England last the more expensive it will become.

Paul said his tickets through to the Final, now stored on his phone under the Hayaa app, cost him £1308, his one-way flight, booked back in April, was £600 and their apartment for 10 days to cover the group stages, was £200-a-night.

But he is quick to defend Qatar against accusations that it is unusually expensive.

‘I have done my research and found that bars run a lot of 30 per cent off deals at certain times and a lot of the time ladies will drink for free,’ he said. ‘Plus all the transport is free and taxis are cheap so while some things will be more, other things will be less.

‘The food looks out of this world. I can’t wait.’

Paul has had a new tattoo done for this World Cup – three lions and an owl inked onto the inside of his forearm.

And he is confident that this could be the moment when England emerge triumphant and his hero Harry Kane ends up with his hands on the trophy.

‘Having watched them in Russia and then last year they are getting closer all the time,’ he said. ‘We have a lot of good players.

‘And I always like it when people are slagging England off as they are at the moment. That’s when England prove people wrong.

‘Their recent performances have been all about players not getting injured and don’t count for anything. I have great expectations. I just hope it doesn’t end in penalty disappointment again.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk