Giving the World Cup to Qatar was a “mistake” and a “bad choice” according to former Fifa president Sepp Blatter, who reiterated that the decision was the result of covert political pressure.
Blatter says the tournament was handed over to the Gulf state due to the actions of former UEFA president Michel Platini under pressure from then French president Nicolas Sarkozy. “For me, it’s clear: Qatar is a mistake. The choice was wrong,” Blatter told the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger. Russia gets the 2018 World Cup and the United States gets the 2022 World Cup. It would have been a gesture of peace if the two long-time political opponents had staged the World Cup back-to-back.”
When asked why Qatar was a bad choice, Blatter made no mention of the human rights issues that plague the tournament, but said: “It’s too small a country. Football and the World Cup are too big for that.
Blatter said Fifa’s plans were disrupted by Platini, saying the Frenchman helped direct four votes from European countries to Qatar, after pressure from Sarkozy.
“Thanks to the four votes of Platini and his [Uefa] team, the World Cup went to Qatar rather than the United States. It’s the truth,” Blatter said of the 14-8 vote against the United States in the final two.
“Platini told me he had been invited to the Élysée Palace, where French President Sarkozy had just had lunch with the Crown Prince of Qatar,” Blatter said. “Sarkozy told Platini: ‘See what you and your UEFA colleagues can do for Qatar when the World Cup is awarded.’ So I asked him, ‘Now what?’ »
According to Blatter, when asked the question, Platini’s response was, “‘Sepp, what would you do if your president asked you something?’ I then told him that the question did not arise for me because we do not have a president in Switzerland.
Platini was questioned by French officials in 2019 as part of an investigation into the 2022 bidding process. The former French player acknowledges that the meeting with Sarkozy took place but denies that his votes were influenced.
In 2013, he told the Guardian: “I knew Sarkozy wanted the Qataris to buy PSG. I understood that Sarkozy supported the candidacy of Qatar. But he never asked me, or to vote for Russia [for 2018]. He knows my personality. I always vote for what is good for football. Not for me, not for France. Sarkozy has previously chosen not to comment on the World Cup allegations.
Blatter, in his first interview since he and Platini were acquitted of fraud in July – although that verdict is under appeal – also struck off his replacement at Fifa, criticizing Gianni Infantino for living in Qatar in preparing for the tournament.
Infantino moved from Switzerland to Doha last year and Blatter suggested the move could jeopardize Infantino’s decisions. “What I wonder: why is the new FIFA president living in Qatar?” said Blatter. “He cannot be at the head of the local organization of the World Cup. It’s not his job. There are two organizing committees for this – one local and one from Fifa.
“The president of Fifa should have the ultimate oversight. An example: there is a proposal to create a fund for deceased workers and bereaved. Qatar says no. What should Fifa say if its president is in the same boat as Qatar?
Infantino has made it a stated priority to increase transparency within Fifa since Blatter’s 40 years with the organization resulted in several allegations of corruption and the arrest of several Fifa officials by the FBI. Blatter, when asked by Tages-Anzeiger about his opinion of Infantino, said: “He is a disrespectful person towards me.” Fifa has been approached for comment.