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Qatar hosting the World Cup is a “mistake”, says Blatter

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter said the selection of Qatar to host the World Cup was a mistake, citing a meeting between Nicolas Sarkozy and Michel Platini that swayed key votes.

The 86-year-old spoke to Swiss news group Tamedia in his first major interview since he and Mr Platini were acquitted of financial wrongdoing at FIFA in July following a federal criminal court trial.

“It’s a country that’s too small,” Blatter said of Qatar, which is the smallest host in terms of size since Switzerland in 1954.

“Football and the World Cup are too big for that.

32 teams will play 64 matches in eight stadiums in and around the city of Doha, which has been transformed since 2010 by massive construction projects in preparation for the World Cup.

The matches begin on November 20 and around 1.2 million international visitors are expected to arrive in Qatar during the World Cup.

Due to the limited number of places to stay in the host country, some will commute 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.

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Its bid was beaten by Qatar in the final round of the five-candidate competition to host in 2022.

It has become part of FIFA tradition that the expected US victory was turned towards Qatar at a meeting hosted by Sarkozy in Paris in the week before the FIFA Executive Committee vote on 2 December 2010.

French football great Platini, then president of European football organization UEFA and vice president of FIFA, was invited by then French president Sarkozy to his official residence.

Qatar’s Crown Prince, now Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was also there.

Blatter repeated his claim on Tuesday that Mr Sarkozy had put pressure on Mr Platini and again gave his version of a phone call Mr Platini made to him after the Paris meeting that the World Cup voting plan had changed.

Two men in a black coat and a gray scarf are talking to each other.
Sepp Blatter has claimed that former French president Nicolas Sarkozy (right) pressured former UEFA president Michel Platini (left) to vote for Qatar.(PA: Michel Euler)

“Thanks to the four votes of Platini and his (UEFA) team, the World Cup went to Qatar and not to the United States. It’s true,” Blatter said of the 14-8 vote.

In comments to the Associated Press in 2015, Mr. Platini broadly confirmed the significance of the meeting in Paris.

“Sarkozy never asked me to vote for Qatar, but I knew what would be good,” Platini told an AP reporter in Zurich seven years ago.

He admitted that he “may have told” US officials that he would vote for their bid in 2022.

Blatter did not specifically mention Qatar’s criticism of labor and human rights since 2010.

But he questioned why his successor as FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, moved to Qatar for at least the last year.

Michel Platini in a suit touches his forehead and bows his head slightly.
Former UEFA president Michel Platini said meeting Mr Sarkozy in Paris was “influential”. (AP: Lionel Cironneau)

Blatter has noted growing demands from rights groups and several FIFA member federations, including the US and England, to set up a compensation fund for the families of workers who died or were injured.

The Qatari government has resisted the calls, calling them a “publicity stunt”.

“What can FIFA say when its president is in the same boat as Qatar?” Mr Blatter said Mr Infantino had chosen to live in Doha.

FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the interview.

Blatter, who went to Moscow during the 2018 World Cup as a guest of Russia while he and Platini were banned from soccer by FIFA, told Swiss newspaper reporters that he would watch the matches in the coming weeks on television in his apartment in Zurich.

AP

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