Former FIFA president, Sepp Blatter has admitted that it was a ‘mistake’ to hand the World Cup to Qatar because it is ‘too small’ to stage the huge tournament.
Qatar was awarded the competition back in 2010, but the decision was met with huge controversy after allegations the country had paid bribes in order to secure the right to host the tournament. There were also concerns about the suffering of low-paid migrant workers to build the infrastructure in the tiny Gulf nation and discriminatory laws that criminalize same-sex relations.
The hosts have also come under fire due to the country’s human rights record and its anti-LGBTQ laws, with many nations planning to make a stance against discrimination when they arrive in Qatar this November.
Blatter, 86, was the boss of FIFA in 2010 when its executive committee controversially voted for the World Cup to be held in Russia and Qatar in 2018 and 2022 respectively. Blatter claims he did not vote for Qatar and instead wanted a “gesture of peace” by hosting the two tournaments in Russia and then the USA.
“The choice of Qatar was a mistake,” Blatter said in an interview with Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, his first since being cleared of fraud charges in July following a £1.7m payment to the former UEFA president Michel Platini.
“At the time, we actually agreed in the executive committee that Russia should get the 2018 World Cup and the USA that of 2022. It would have been a gesture of peace if the two long-standing political opponents had hosted the World Cup one after the other.
“It’s too small a country. Football and the World Cup are too big for that.”
When asked if he felt responsible for handing Qatar the World Cup, he added: ‘For me it is clear: Qatar is a mistake. The choice was bad.
‘What I’m wondering: why is the new Fifa president [Gianni Infantino] living in Qatar? He can’t be the head of the local World Cup organisation. That’s not his job. There are two organising committees for this – a local one and one from Fifa.’
At the start of the year it was claimed in an investigation from SonntagsBlick that Infantino had been living in Qatar since October 2021, renting a house in the capital of Doha.
FIFA later claimed that Infantino splits his time between working in Doha and Zurich -where the organisation are based, and that being in Qatar allows him to put his focus into preparing for the World Cup.
FIFA said in a statement: ‘As communicated in October 2021, the FIFA President informed the FIFA Council that he would divide his presence between Zurich, Doha and across the world, in order to deliver his presidential duties and be closer to the FIFA World Cup,’ FIFA said in a statement.
‘As he did during the FIFA Arab Cup, he will work alongside other FIFA staff in our office in Doha, when required, until the conclusion of the tournament. For the avoidance of doubt, Mr.Infantino has residency, and remains liable to pay taxes, in Switzerland.’
It is not the first time Blatter has claimed that the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar was an error.
In 2014, he said: ‘Yes, it was a mistake of course, but one makes lots of mistakes in life. The technical report into Qatar said clearly it was too hot but the executive committee – with a large majority – decided all the same to play it in Qatar.’