Tariq Panja and Rory Smith, in a crackling, deeply-sourced report for The New York Times on how soccer’s World Cup wound up being hosted in Qatar (spoiler: millions and million of dollars in bribes):
As the country fine-tuned its bid for the World Cup, its
representatives spent hours in media training sessions with
public-relations consultants drafted in from Europe, trying to
craft responses to potentially awkward inquiries about the
country’s treatment of migrant workers and its attitude toward
It was uneasy ground for even the most senior officials, given
that homosexuality was, and is, illegal in Qatar. In one media
training session viewed by The New York Times, Sheikh Mohammed,
the youngest son of the country’s ruler at the time, replied to a
mock question on the subject by insisting that all visitors to the
country would be welcomed.
When a media trainer responded by pointing out that a journalist
might follow up by asking how that can be squared with laws that
criminalize homosexuality, the prince responded, “It’s illegal in
most countries.” Uncertain, his eyes darted from side to side.
What could go wrong?
This sounds like a totally normal press conference with FIFA chief Gianni Infantino defending this whole shameful debacle:
He insisted fears over the treatment of LGBTQ+ people attending
the World Cup were overstated, and repeatedly said they were
welcome in Qatar even though homosexuality remains criminalized in
the country. “Everyone’s security is guaranteed, from the highest
level of government,” Infantino said. “This is the guarantee we’ve
given, and we stick with it.”
He then sought to play down Friday’s abrupt U-turn on the
availability of beer at stadiums, a last-minute change that
shocked the longtime FIFA partner most affected by it, Budweiser.
Far from souring that relationship, Infantino insisted, the
sudden rupture had in fact strengthened the relationship with the
“I feel 200 percent in control of this World Cup,” he said.
FIFA is 200 percent in control of the World Cup, Budweiser is 300 percent happy with beer being banned two days before the tournament started, and LGBT attendees are 400 percent welcome and safe in Qatar.
★ Saturday, 19 November 2022