En the day after his surprising appearance in the media center of the soccer World Cup, Gianni Infantino had changed again. On Friday he appeared in front of the cameras in the wine-red training suit of the referee team, but on Saturday morning at the Qatar National Convention Center in Doha the fancier clothes were back in fashion with the president of the world governing body FIFA. But the many issues that arise shortly before the start of the highly controversial finals in the emirate are not as easy to take off as the clothes. No matter how hard Infantino tried.
If Friday’s brief appearance was just a bit pompous, Saturday’s press conference opening the finals was a rather bizarre one-man show. Infantino first held a sixty-minute monologue, after which the whole football world should really know what the hour has come. According to him, a lot had accumulated in the past few months. That finally had to be out before everyone’s eyes and ears on the day before the opening game between Qatar and Ecuador this Sunday (17.00 CET in the FAZ live ticker for the World Cup, on ZDF and on MagentaTV).
Right from the start, Infantino set a tone that was intended to ring loud and pioneering in the ears of the critics. “What saddens me is that we have had to experience a lesson in double standards in the past few weeks,” said Giovanni Vincenzo Infantino, known to everyone as Gianni and who grew up in an Italian immigrant family in Switzerland. He described the criticism of Qatar, especially from the western world, as “pure hypocrisy”. “I think what we Europeans have done worldwide for the past 3000 years, we should apologize for the next 3000 years before we start giving moral advice to others.”
Infantino forgets women
Gianni Infantino said things that Gianni Infantino says – and for which he has received so much criticism. This time, however, his statements were like a reckoning. Whether he really thinks his theatrical performance on the big stage can ensure peace and quiet at the World Cup off the field remains his secret. He didn’t succeed, even if he unpacked almost all stylistic devices rhetorically and mimetically. Again and again he took breaks, spoke faster, became louder when something was particularly important to him, laughed, folded his hands in a thinking pose. Then the actor in the suit took a ball from the podium, held it out to the 400 journalists in the main hall and said: “It’s the only weapon we have.”
The performance seemed rehearsed before there was a forty-minute question and answer session after an hour of monologue. But Infantino didn’t get through his show without mistakes. At the beginning he said theatrically: “Today I feel very strong feelings. Today I feel like a Qatari. Today I feel like an Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel homosexual. Today I feel handicapped. Today I feel like a migrant worker.” He was later asked why he didn’t include any women in his list? “Yes,” he immediately called out loud. “Today I feel like a woman.” He apologized for forgetting her, after all “I have four daughters”.