Qatari-owned beIN Sports has taken down a post on Twitter in which soccer analyst Gary Neville heavily criticized FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
The game’s global governing body has been attacked for its decision to take 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 likening his own experience as a red-headed child to that of gay and disabled people in his bizarre speech Saturday.
The competition got underway Sunday as 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 number of statements that raised eyebrows.
‘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 a migrant worker. And I feel this because what I have seen and it brings me back to my personal story. I’m a son of migrant workers.
‘My parents were working very, very hard and in very, very difficult conditions — not in Qatar, in Switzerland. I remember as a child how migrant workers were treated when they looked for work and I remember what happened with their passports.’
Gary Neville (L) has criticized FIFA president Gianni Infantino (R) as a ‘terrible face for football’
Qatari-owned beIN Sports took down the Tweet which included clip of Neville later on Sunday
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.
Former Manchester United defender Neville, who is working for sports network beIN Sports for the showpiece tournament in Qatar, condemned Infantino as a ‘terrible face for football’ in a clip posted on the the broadcaster’s Twitter account.
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’
However the Qatari-owned channel later deleted the post on Sunday.
‘He’s a terrible face for football,’ Neville said on beIN Sports. ‘Some of the things he said yesterday were inappropriate and shouldn’t be said by him.
‘He should be bringing people together. He’s the global representative of football. He shouldn’t be answering to one or two nations, which is what he seemed to be doing yesterday. He’s got to rise above it.
‘Some of his language yesterday was an absolute scandal. He shouldn’t be using that kind of language. He shouldn’t be using those phrases.’
Neville went on to compare the FIFA president to a number of other controversial world leaders, as he explained: ‘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’re bringing people together they’re not.’
The pundit also spoke of how FIFA needed to resurrect its status within football.
He added: ‘I’ve been all around the world playing with Manchester United, there’s no doubt we should be taking football all around the world.
‘FIFA is a poor 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 its act. Its been bad for so long.’
Fans spotted the change on beIN Sports’ profile, with one social media user writing: ‘Bein Sport deleted the Gary Neville Tweet,’ followed by a laughing crying face emoji.
Another added: ‘So this Tweet featuring Gary Neville’s comments on the FIFA President was deleted. Interesting decision.’
Amnesty International had already hit back at Infantino for ‘dismissing the enormous price paid by migrant workers’.
Former Manchester United defender Neville compared the FIFA President to Donald Trump
Trump holds up a FIFA red card with his name on, given to him by Infantino at 2018 meeting
Fans spotted the change on beIN Sports’ profile on Sunday night after first World Cup game
Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice, said in a statement: ‘In brushing aside legitimate human rights criticisms, Gianni Infantino is dismissing the enormous price paid by migrant workers to make his flagship tournament possible – as well as FIFA’s responsibility for it.
‘Demands for equality, dignity and compensation cannot be treated as some sort of culture war – they are universal human rights that FIFA has committed to respect in its own statutes.’
While Nicholas McGeechan, director of Fair Square, a human rights research group, said: ‘Infantino’s comments were as crass as they were clumsy and suggest the FIFA president is getting his talking points direct from the Qatari authorities.’