Then he dealt with one issue after another, expressing his annoyance that, in his opinion, the reality of life in Qatar is very different from what was in the newspaper pages, which he said he ignores.
He insisted that concerns about the treatment of gay and transgender people attending the World Cup were exaggerated, and has repeatedly said they are welcome in Qatar even though homosexuality is still criminalized in the country.
“The security of everyone is guaranteed, from the highest levels of government,” Infantino said. “That’s the guarantee we made, and we stand by it.”
Then he sought to downplay Friday’s sudden shift over the availability of beer in stadiums, a last-minute change that shocked longtime FIFA partner Budweiser the hardest hit by it. Beyond the strain of that relationship, Infantino insisted, the sudden rupture actually cemented the relationship with the brewer.
Offering no evidence to support his claim, a day after Budweiser issued a statement he appeared to reluctantly accept a decision — made in consultation between Qatar and FIFA, Infantino insisted — that was outside their control.
The abrupt reversal of years of promises by tournament organizers has raised questions about FIFA’s authority in its own event, with senior Qatari royals calling for beer to be banned. However, Infantino insisted that all decisions, even those of late, apparently influenced by a royal order, were made jointly.
“I feel 200 percent in control of this World Cup,” he said.
Infantino hinted grimly at the reason for the brewery’s sudden change of heart, blaming the move on “previously unknown threats”. His comments also underlined concerns about Qatar’s suitability for hosting such a large event: With four matches a day in the opening group stage, all played in what is effectively one city-state, Infantino said the movement of large groups of fans inside such a large event is a challenge. A compact environment carries more risks if it is fueled with beer.
When asked about the appropriateness of his language, Infantino remained unapologetic, doubling down whenever he was pressed to explain himself.