DOHA, Qatar (AP) — FIFA’s chief spokesman defended world soccer president Gianni Infantino’s record on LGBTQ rights Saturday on the eve of the World Cup.
Speaking to reporters at the end of a wide-ranging Infantino press conference, FIFA press officer Bryan Swanson, who is gay, insisted that everyone would be welcome at the World Cup in Qatar.
“I have seen a lot of criticism of Gianni Infantino since I joined FIFA, particularly from the LGBTQ community,” Swanson said.
“I am sitting here in a privileged position on a global stage as a gay man here in Qatar.”
“We have received guarantees that everyone is welcome and I think everyone will be welcome at this World Cup.”
Qatar has come under constant criticism for its human rights record, its treatment of foreign workers, and its stance on women’s and LGBTQ rights.
Former Qatar international and World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman sparked outrage earlier this month after calling homosexuality “mental damage” in an interview with German broadcaster ZDF.
Swanson, who joined FIFA last year after nearly two decades as a broadcaster on Britain’s Sky Sports, insisted that Infantino was a staunch ally of LGBTQ causes.
“Just because Gianni Infantino isn’t gay doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. He cares. He sees the public side. I see the private side,” Swanson said.
“We have talked several times about this. I thought long and hard about whether I should bring this up, but I’m so sorry. At FIFA we care about everyone.”
“We are an inclusive organization. I have several gay colleagues. So sitting here I am fully aware of the debate and fully respect everyone’s right and everyone’s opinion to think differently. I get it.”
“But I also know what we stand for and when (Infantino) says we’re inclusive, he means it.”