Awarding FIFA World Cup to Qatar 12 years ago was ‘a mistake’, admits then FIFA President Sepp Blatter


Awarding the FIFA World Cup to Qatar 12 years ago was a mistake, then FIFA President Sepp Blatter said on Tuesday, recalling that the meeting between Nicolas Sarkozy and Michel Platini may have influenced on the outcome of the ballot.

Mr Blatter, who is 86, made the comments to Swiss media conglomerate Tamedia during his first major interview since being cleared in July with Mr Platini on charges of financial misconduct at FIFA, following a criminal trial in federal court.

“This country is too small,” Blatter said of Qatar, the smallest in size since hosting the World Cup in Switzerland in 1954. “Soccer and the World Cup are too big for its size. »

The 32 teams will play 64 matches in eight stadiums built in Doha and its surroundings. The Qatari city has also been transformed since 2010 due to the many pharaonic projects started for the World Cup.

This country is too small. Soccer and the World Cup are too big for his size.

The matches will be shown from November 20, and around 1.2 million spectators from abroad are expected to visit Qatar during the tournament. Due to the limited accommodation offer in Qatar, many of them will have to make daily round trips from neighboring countries.

tipping point

“It was a bad decision. And I am responsible for it, since I was president at the time, ”said Sepp Blatter, who had already declared that he had voted for the United States. The American candidacy was beaten by that of Qatar in the last round of voting, which brought together five candidate countries.

The tipping point that derailed the United States’ bid was a meeting organized by Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris during the week leading up to the FIFA board of directors ballot, held on December 2, 2010.

Michel Platini, then President of the Union of European Soccer Associations (UEFA) and Vice-President of FIFA, is invited by the President of France to his official residence. The Crown Prince of Qatar, now Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was also present.

Mr. Blatter repeated on Tuesday his allegations about Mr. Sarkozy, who would have tried to influence Mr. Platini, and again delivered his version of the phone call that the latter would have made to him after the meeting in Paris to tell him that the voting process for awarding the World Cup had changed. “Thanks to the four voices of Platini and his team [de l’UEFA], the World Cup was awarded to Qatar rather than the United States. It’s the truth,” said Sepp Blatter of the vote that ended 14-8 in favor of the Middle Eastern country.

In an interview with the Associated Press in 2015, Michel Platini confirmed the importance of the meeting in Paris in the outcome of the ballot. « Sarkozy never asked me to vote for Qatar, but I knew it would be better, » Platini told the AP in Zurich seven years ago. He also admitted that he « could have » told US leaders he was going to vote for their 2022 candidacy.

Silence on human rights

Mr Blatter, however, did not allude to criticism of forced labor and human rights abuses in Qatar since 2010. He did, however, question why his successor as FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, moved in this country at least a year ago.

He says he has heard of numerous requests from humanitarian groups and some FIFA member federations – including those of England and the United States – for the creation of a compensation fund for the families of workers who have been injured or killed in preparations for the World Cup. The Qatari government has always denied the existence of the problem, and added that it was « a publicity stunt ».

“What can FIFA do if its president is in the same boat as Qatar? Mr. Blatter asked of Mr. Infantino, who chose to call the tiny Gulf country home.

FIFA has still not responded to requests for comment on the interview given by its former president.

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