FIFA president Gianni Infantino has defended the presence of the Iranian national soccer team at the World Cup in Qatar despite calls for dropping the team over the crackdown on protests.
During a news conference on the eve of the start of the tournament on Saturday, Infantino said, "It's not two regimes playing against each other, it's not two ideologies playing against each other, it's two football teams” implying that the crimes of governments should not stop teams from competing.
"If we don't have at least football to bring us together... which world are we going to live in? In Iran there are 80 million people, are they all bad? Are they all monsters?" he said.
“Do we want to continue to spit on the others because they look different, or they feel different? We defend human rights. We do it our way. We obtain results. We got women fans in Iran. The Women’s League was created in Sudan. Let’s celebrate. Don’t divide,” Infantino said as an apparent – but incoherent attempt – to defend hosting the World Cup by Qatar.
For nearly a decade, Russia and Qatar have been suspected of buying votes to win hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
He also rounded on European critics of the host nation over the issues of migrant workers and LGBT rights.
On Friday, German Football Association (DFB) chief Bernd Neuendorf said the country decided not to back Infantino's re-election next year over the soccer' body's handling of human rights issues at World Cup hosts Qatar and its failure to take a stand on Iran.