Former FIFA president thinks the Qatar World Cup is a mistake
Anja Niedringhaus / AP
Choosing Qatar to host the World Cup was a mistake 12 years ago, then FIFA President Sepp Blatter said on Tuesday, again citing a meeting between Nicolas Sarkozy and Michel Platini for swaying the votes. importance.
Blatter, 86, spoke to Swiss newspaper group Tamedia in his first major interview since being acquitted by Platini in July of financial misconduct at FIFA following a trial at federal criminal court.
“It’s such a small country,” Blatter said of Qatar, the smallest host country since the 1954 tournament in Switzerland. “Football and the World Cup are too big for that.”
The 32 teams will play 64 matches at eight stadiums in and around Doha that have been converted since 2010 by major construction projects in preparation for the World Cup.
The games kick off on November 20 with around 1.2 million international visitors expected to visit Qatar in time for the World Cup. With a limited number of places to stay in the host country, some will come from neighboring states.
“It was a bad choice. And I was responsible for that as president at the time,” said Blatter, who has long said he voted for the United States. Its bid was beaten by Qatar in the final round of the five-candidate contest to host 2022.
It became part of FIFA lore that an expected US victory would favor Qatar at a meeting that Sarkozy held in Paris the week before the executive committee’s December 2, 2010 vote. FIFA.
The great French football player Platini, then president of the European football organization UEFA and vice president of FIFA, was invited to his official residence by then-state president Sarkozy. The Crown Prince of Qatar, now the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was also there.
Blatter on Tuesday repeated his claim that Sarkozy had put pressure on Platini and again offered his version of the phone call Platini made to him after the Paris meeting that the World vote plan Cup has changed.
“Thanks to the four votes of Platini and his team (UEFA), the World Cup went to Qatar, not the United States. That’s true,” Blatter said of the August 14 voting results.
In comments to the Associated Press in 2015, Platini broadly confirmed the significance of that meeting in Paris.
“Sarkozy never asked me to vote for Qatar, but I know what would be good,” Platini told an AP reporter in Zurich seven years ago. He admitted that he “could have told” US officials that he would vote on their 2022 bid.
Blatter has not specifically addressed criticism of Qatar over labor and human rights issues since 2010.
However, he questioned why his successor, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, had moved to Qatar for at least a year.
Blatter noted growing calls by human rights groups and some FIFA member federations, including the US and UK, to create a compensation fund for the families of workers who died or were injured. The Qatari government has opposed the calls, describing them as a “public stunt”.
“What can FIFA say if their president is in the same boat as Qatar?” Blatter talks about Infantino choosing to live in Doha.
FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the interview.
Blatter, who traveled to Moscow during the 2018 World Cup as a guest of Russia while he and Platini were suspended by FIFA, told Swiss newspaper reporters that he would watch the matches in the coming weeks. came on television at his apartment in Zurich.