Today at the World Cup: Gianni Infantino gives bizarre eve-of-tournament speech

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FIFA president Gianni Infantino took centre stage on Saturday during an extraordinary hour-long monologue in a pre-tournament press conference in Doha.

Qatar coach Felix Sanchez was hoping for the best as the Gulf nation get set for their World Cup debut on Sunday, while England and Wales continued their preparations ahead of the opening Group B fixtures on Monday.

Here, the PA news agency looks back on Saturday’s events at the 2022 World Cup.

Infantino in the spotlight

During an extraordinary hour-long monologue, Infantino took aim at European critics of Qatar – and then found himself attracting wide-spread condemnation for a series of bizarre comments.

Infantino declared “today I feel gay” and “I feel (like) a migrant worker” early on in his speech, referencing the discrimination his family faced as Italian migrants in Switzerland and how he was bullied owing to his red hair and freckles.

FIFA Technical Study Group Presentation – FIFA World Cup 2022 – Main Media Centre
FIFA president Gianni Infantino eventually took questions following his lengthy speech (Nick Potts/PA)

After his length speech eventually came to a close, Infantino was keen to stress “everyone is welcome” at the World Cup despite concerns over whether members of the LGBTQ+ community will be safe in Qatar given the country’s laws which criminalise same-sex relationships.

Qatar coach hoping for the best

Qatar manager Felix Sanchez during a press conference
Qatar manager Felix Sanchez takes his side into a first World Cup (Nick Potts/PA)

With all of the pre-tournament headlines surrounding off-field issues, Qatar coach Felix Sanchez is determined his side will produce a performance in the Group A opener against Ecuador in Al Khor.

Qatar will be making their World Cup debut on Sunday, and Spaniard Sanchez said: “All the players come here with the highest motivation for tomorrow.

“We will try to give a good performance and be competitive. We have to be realistic around possibilities, but we have to do well.”

Players try to stay focused on football

England defender Eric Dier during a press conference
England defender Eric Dier knows players cannot shy away from the controversies in Qatar (Martin Rickett/PA)

“It’s extremely difficult every day for all of us as players,” the Tottenham defender said.

“We come here and we know these topics are going to be addressed and it is a difficult situation for us.

“Not just us, every team, every player is going to experience it throughout the whole tournament. It is disappointing.”

Wales ready to hit ground running

Wales defender Ben Davies during a press conference
Defender Ben Davies is hoping Wales can get off to a fast start at the World Cup (Adam Davy/PA)

Wales start their campaign against the United States on Monday to end the longest wait – 64 years – of any nation between successive appearances at the finals.

Five players – captain Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Ethan Ampadu, Chris Mepham and Jonny Williams – did not train on Saturday due to workload management but Swansea midfielder Joe Allen is the only current injury concern.

Tottenham defender Ben Davies said: “We are really excited for the games to start. We know the first game is so important. We will need to relax as much as we can beforehand and raise our game.”

Picture of the day

FIFA President Gianni Infantino during a presentation
FIFA president Gianni Infantino took centre stage on the eve of the tournament in Qatar (Nick Potts/PA)

What’s on tomorrow?

Group A: Qatar v Ecuador (Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, 4pm, BBC One)

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