Summer World Cup in Qatar 'a mistake', says Blatter
Issued on: Modified:
It would be “a mistake” to hold the 2022 Qatar World Cup in summer, FIFA President Sepp Blatter admitted Thursday, while saying the selection of the emirate to host the tournament was influenced by political pressure from France and Germany.
“Yes. Well, a mistake. A mistake. You know one makes many mistakes in life. The technical report on Qatar clearly indicated that it was too hot in summer,” Blatter told Swiss TV station RTS.
“But the (FIFA) executive committee decided with quite a large majority that we are going to play in Qatar.”
Blatter also said it was “more than likely” that the 2022 tournament will be moved to winter to avoid the extreme heat of June and July in the Gulf nation, where the average summer temperature tops 40°C.
On Friday, FIFA issued a statement insisting that Blatter was not questioning the choice of Qatar itself.
“As explained in his answer to the journalist, the president reiterated that the decision to organise the World Cup in summer was an ‘error’ based on the technical assessment report of the bid, which had highlighted the extremely hot temperatures in summer in Qatar. At no stage did he question Qatar as the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup,” FIFA said.
In the interview, Blatter denied a suggestion that Qatar used its vast gas and oil wealth to buy the World Cup.
'Political pushing' from France and Germany
However, he said political pressure from France and Germany had a role in FIFA’s choice of Qatar, noting that major companies from both those European nations work in the Gulf state.
“I will never say that they bought it, because it was political pushing. Really, both in France and Germany,” Blatter said.
France hit back on Friday, rejecting Blatter’s assertions as “unfounded”.
"The designation of the country chosen to host the World Cup is for FIFA itself, and for the whole of its executive committee to choose through a vote," said French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal.
Contacted Friday by AFP, a German government spokesman declined to comment, but he referred to remarks made by Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert in November 2013.
Seibert told reporters then: "I can only very clearly say here for the chancellor that at no time has there been a recommendation to a German FIFA executive member to cast a ballot for the choice of Qatar as host."
FIFA took the decision to award Qatar the World Cup in December 2010, handing organisation of the world's biggest sporting event by viewership to the tiny gas-rich emirate.
Since then Qatar has been dogged by controversies over the validity of the vote, the treatment of foreign workers employed on World Cup infrastructure projects, as well as when in 2022 the tournament should be played.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)