DOHA, Qatar (AP)The outspoken CEO of Qatar Airways lashed out Thursday at critics of his country hosting the upcoming FIFA World Cup, saying his nation will ”always rub salt into the wound” of its adversaries.

Akbar Al Baker’s comments show the increasingly confrontational stance of Qatari officials as the start of the tournament approaches on Nov. 20 and as the spotlight on the small, energy-rich country intensifies. Already, some nations and soccer teams have expressed concern over how Qatar manages its vast population of low-paid migrant workers and its stance on LGBTQ rights.

Speaking from Qatar’s vast Hamad International Airport as officials unveiled an expansion there, Al Baker made a point to note it had taken Skytrax’s Best Airport Award from Singapore Changi Airport in the last two years.

”We always rub salt into the wound of our competitor, and of course, our adversaries, as you can see the measure of the negative media campaign against my beloved country Qatar,” he said. ”Because people cannot accept that a small country like the state of Qatar has won the world’s largest sporting event.”

He added: ”Congratulations to Qatar, my beloved country.” Some officials attending the news conference clapped in response.

Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.