FIFA’s chief spokesman defended world football chief Gianni Infantino’s record on LGBTQ rights on Saturday on the eve of the World Cup. Speaking to reporters at the end of an elaborate press conference by Infantino, FIFA media chief Brian Swanson, who is gay, insisted that everyone would be welcome at the Qatar World Cup.
Swanson said, “I’ve seen a lot of criticism of Gianni Infantino since he joined FIFA, especially from the LGBTQ community.” “I sit here in Qatar in a privileged position as a gay man on the global stage.
“We have been assured that everyone is welcome and I am sure everyone will be welcome at this World Cup.”
Qatar has come under constant fire over its human rights record, treatment of foreign workers and stance on women and LGBTQ rights.
Former Qatari international and World Cup ambassador Khaled Salman sparked outrage earlier this month after he called homosexuality “brain damage” in an interview with German broadcaster ZDF.
Swanson, who joined FIFA last year after nearly two decades as a broadcaster at Britain’s Sky Sports, insisted Infantino was a staunch ally to LGBTQ causes.
Swanson said, “Just because Gianni Infantino isn’t gay, doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. He cares. You see the public side. I see the private side.”
“We have talked about this on several occasions. I thought for a long time whether I should mention it, but I feel strongly about it. FIFA cares for all of us.”
“We are an inclusive organization. I have many gay colleagues. So sitting here, I am fully aware of the debate and I fully respect everyone’s right to think differently and everyone’s opinion. I understand.”
“But I also know what we stand for and when (Infantino) says we are inclusive, he means it.”
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