Fifa boss Gianni Infantino made a bizarre speech against his critics on Saturday. With curious comparisons like “I know what it’s like to be discriminated against. I was bullied because I had red hair,” he now encounters even more opposition in Europe. Reason enough for a rhetoric analysis.
Imagine waking up in the morning and realizing that for a while you might be the most important person in the world. It’s FIFA World Cup and you are the boss of this organization: FIFA. But instead of being celebrated as usual, you have to take harsh criticism. over months. Some people with a lot of power are fortunate to have people around them to help them stay grounded in a stressful situation.
Infantino doesn’t seem to be one of those people. Or the stress can no longer think clearly and the words consultant fall into nothing. He has been living in Qatar for nine months and simply does not reveal who is paying for the whole thing. Everyone knows the World Cup is being held there because bribes have been paid.
The FIFA boss himself has said that the conditions of migrant workers have improved, the media finds out it’s not true! Football teams simply don’t want to wear the FIFA armband, they have their own aimed at demanding human rights.
The appeal to please concentrate on football from now on falls flat. Stress? Yes. The result? A disastrous speech. What happened? When a person is under tremendous pressure but aware of their great power, there can be total over arrogance. That’s exactly what happened with Infantino. While the media is assuming an announced 45-minute press conference in which journalists can ask questions, Infantino begins an unbelievable monologue.
He sorts his documents and looks at the audience with a scowl. Sorting the documents and holding the desk with both hands gives him the support that he otherwise misses so much. He adjusts his microphone adjusts his tie. He adjusts the microphone again. While his spokesman speaks, he sorts things, crosses his hands. He gets the word. Thanks politely with eye contact to his press spokesman.
Then he asks: I hope you have some time for my opening words? In doing so, he spreads himself! Arms stretched out wide and palms on tabletop. dominance and aggressiveness. We can even rate the pressed lips as anger.
FIFA Boss Infantino begins a bizarre speech in an attempt to debunk and justify criticism of the decision to award the World Cup to Qatar. In his own words, however, it was not about criticism, but about talking about some topics that, whether rightly or wrongly, had come up in the last few months. The opening sentence set the tone for the whole speech.
Actually, you could have stopped the sad event afterwards: “Today I have very strong feelings. Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arabic. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel handicapped. Today I feel like a migrant worker. I feel like them because I know what it feels like to be discriminated against, to be bullied as a foreigner in a country.
I was bullied at school because I had red hair and freckles. I was bullied and besides I was Italian, imagine that. I couldn’t speak German well. And what do you do then? You lock yourself in your room, cry, and then try to make friends. You try to get involved… You don’t start blaming or fighting, you start getting involved. That’s what we should be doing.”
Michael Ehlers is a rhetoric trainer and has been coaching public figures, entrepreneurs, top managers, professional sports trainers, influencers and many more for over three decades. The multiple bestselling author (including Rhetoric – The Art of Speech in the Digital Age) is a sought-after expert and has carried out rhetoric analyzes (chancellor duels, Putin analyses) for Focus, N-TV, ZDF and almost all ARD broadcasters, for example. Ehlers is Managing Partner of the Institut Michael Ehlers GmbH, Bamberg, Director of the Center for Rhetoric at SGMI Management Institute St. Gallen and lecturer at the St. Galler Management Program (SMP). He regularly appears at events as a keynote speaker.
What shoud that? Apart from the fact that it is more than ridiculous to compare the certainly very unpleasant experience of being teased or even bullied at school because of your hair color with the life-threatening discrimination that homosexuals experience in many Arab and some African countries, the FIFA boss here on several levels equal things that are in fact very different.
He compares the unjustified discrimination against homosexuals or disabled people with the absolutely justified criticism of certain conditions in the host country, for example the treatment of migrant workers or the situation of women and homosexuals. This is deeply dishonest and can only be done with the intention of silencing critics.
At the same time, Infantino feels Qatari, African and gay and disabled. Because he knows what it feels like to be discriminated against. Translated, this outburst of emotion means: Qatar is discriminated against by the world community just as homosexual people are in many parts of the world. This is of course absolute nonsense and ignores the fact that the Qatari World Cup ambassador and former national soccer player Khalid Salman recently called homosexuality “mental damage”.
And if you think this sentence further, are Africans from this point of view – he does not feel, for example, Zambian or Nigerian, but African – the “disabled” in the world? Classic colonial thought pattern. The speaker is apparently in no way aware of this racism. And this completely unsuccessful start shows something else: this is mainly about feelings.
Many want to boycott the soccer World Cup in Qatar. In our multimedia story you can read why and what exactly the host country is accused of and what has happened in the desert state since 2010.
The criticism of the last months or even years has hurt the boss. The mechanics are easy to see through. Infantino tries to take hard-hitting and very specific criticism of FIFA, himself and the host country to a vague emotional level.
His closing sentence underlines this: “Do we want to keep spitting on others because they look different or feel different?” No, nobody wants that. But people want answers. When children are pointed out errors in an essay, they take the first one, two, three hints. But at some point it is enough and the criticism is perceived as a personal attack.
A lot of effort and work went into this essay. A frequently heard response is then: “You are mean!” And that is exactly what FIFA boss Infantino wanted to convey to his critics: “You are mean!” For a grown man and boss of what is perhaps the most powerful sports organization in the world, it is not appropriate response. If I may allow myself this level, it is infantile.