Citing the size of the country, former FIFA President Sepp Blatter criticized the decision to award the next World Cup to Qatar as a “mistake”.
Blatter made his comments in an interview on Tuesday with Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger.
“Qatar is a mistake,” Blatter said. … “It’s too small a country. Football and the World Cup are too big for that.”
Qatar’s population is approximately 2.9 million, including an influx of about 370,000 new residents who moved to the Gulf nation last year ahead of the World Cup. Qatar lacked the infrastructure to hold the event and recruited migrant workers from foreign countries to build the necessary stadiums, hotels and roads.
The employment of migrant workers is at the heart of human rights concerns during the World Cup. Qatar has faced criticism for the working and living conditions offered to migrant workers, which Amnesty International has likened to forced labour. Conditions have been blamed for worker injuries and deaths, with the death toll being the subject of dispute.
Blatter’s critique did not directly address human rights concerns. He reiterated that he believes the United States should have been awarded the World Cup four years after Russia hosted it in 2018.
“At the time, we agreed in the (FIFA) Executive Committee that Russia should win the 2018 World Cup and the US the 2022 World Cup,” Blatter said.
“It would have been a gesture of peace if the two longtime political opponents had hosted the World Cup one after the other.”
Qatar and the United States were among the five finalists to host the 2022 World Cup when FIFA awarded it to Qatar 14-8 in 2010. Blatter was FIFA president at the time and says he voted for the United States. He reiterated earlier allegations that then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy helped influence the vote at a 2010 meeting in Paris, attended by then-UEFA President Michel Platini and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the current emir. of Qatar who was crown prince at the time.
“Thanks to the four votes from Platini and his team, the World Cup went to Qatar and not the United States,” said Blatter.
He added that the decision was his responsibility as FIFA President.
“It was a bad choice,” Blatter said. “And I was responsible for that as president at the time.”
Blatter, 86, made the comments in his first interview since he and Platini were acquitted in July of charges of defrauding FIFA in a Swiss criminal court. Prosecutors appealed the acquittal. FIFA banned Blatter amid the accusations and has since issued a new suspension until 2028 for various alleged violations of its codes of ethics.
The World Cup in Qatar starts on 20 November. The United States, Canada and Mexico will jointly host the next World Cup in 2026 in 16 cities.