Handing the World Cup to Qatar was a “mistake” and a “bad choice” according to former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who reiterated claims the decision was the result of secret political pressure.
Blatter says the tournament was handed over to the Gulf State because of 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 bad,” Blatter told Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger. “At the time, we agreed in the executive committee that Russia should get the 2018 World Cup and the US the 2022. It would have been a gesture of peace if the two longtime political opponents had hosted the World Cup one after the other. other. .”
Asked why Qatar was a bad choice, Blatter did not mention the human rights concerns that hung over the tournament, but said: “It’s a very small country. Football and the World Cup are too big for that.”
Blatter said FIFA’s plans were interrupted by Platini, claiming Platini was instrumental in directing four votes from European countries to Qatar after pressure from Sarkozy.
“Thanks to Platini’s four votes and his [Uefa] team, the World Cup went to Qatar and not to the United States. It’s the truth,” Blatter said of the 14-8 vote.
“Platini told me he was invited to the Élysée Palace, where then-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, ‘What now?’”
According to Blatter, Platini’s response was, “’Sepp, what would you do if your president asked you to do something?’ I then told him that the issue did not arise for me because we do not have a president in Switzerland.”
Platini was questioned by French authorities in 2019 as part of an investigation into the 2022 bidding process. The former France 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 people of Qatar to buy PSG. I understood that Sarkozy supported the Qatari candidacy. But he never asked me, or to vote in Russia [for 2018]. He knows my personality. I always vote for what’s good for football. Not for me, not for France.”
Sarkozy previously chose 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 subject to appeal – also criticized his FIFA replacement, criticizing Gianni Infantino for living in Qatar in preparation for the tournament.
Infantino moved to Doha from Switzerland last year and Blatter has suggested the move could compromise Infantino’s decisions. “What I’m wondering: why is the new FIFA president living in Qatar?” said Blatter. “He cannot be the head of the local World Cup organization. That’s not his job. There are two organizing committees for this – one local and one from FIFA.
“The FIFA president should have the final oversight. An example: there is a proposal to create a fund for deceased workers and the 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-year tenure with the organization ended in multiple allegations of corruption and the arrest of several FIFA officials by the FBI. Blatter, asked by Tages-Anzeiger about his opinion of Infantino, said: “He is a disrespectful person to me.”
FIFA was approached for comment.