The story behind how Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup took a new turn yesterday as outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter said in a media interview that the former leaders of France and Germany lobbied on behalf of the Gulf state.
However, he went further in an interview published over the weekend by German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. According to Associated Press, Blatter said “there were two political interventions” from former German President Christian Wulff as well as former French pPresident Nicolas Sarkozy.
“Messrs Sarkozy and Wulff tried to influence their voting representatives. That’s why we now have a World Cup in Qatar. Those who decided it should take responsibility for it … I act on the leadership principal. If a majority of the executive committee wants a World Cup in Qatar then I have to accept that,” Blatter was quoted as saying.
The FIFA President suggested the German politician recommended that his country’s football federation “vote for Qatar out of economic interests.”
Former German footballer Franz Beckenbauer was a member of FIFA’s executive committee that voted to award the 2018 and 2022 tournaments to Russia and Qatar, respectively. While he’s refused to say who he supported in his secret ballot, Beckenbauer has called the selection of Qatar “strange.”
Tired of taking blame
The allegations of political lobbying add a new dimension to the controversy dogging Qatar’s World Cup bid, which – along with Russia’s successful 2018 World Cup proposal – is currently the subject of a criminal investigation by Swiss authorities.
Qatar’s World Cup organizers have steadfastly rejected any suggestions of wrongdoing.
Now, however, he appears less willing to stick up for Qatar. According to the Associated Press, Blatter said he was tired of taking the blame for something he had no control over.
The 79-year-old was re-elected to a fifth term as FIFA president in late May, but abruptly announced four days later his intention to resign amid the organization-wide corruption scandal dogging football’s world governing body.
Blatter later mused that he hadn’t actually resigned, fueling speculation that he may attempt to hold onto his post, but other senior FIFA officials have stated that there must be a “changing of the guard.”
A lawyer for Blatter confirmed last week that the FIFA president would break with tradition and not attend today’s final match of the Women’s World Cup in Canada.
Some observers have raised the prospect that Blatter could be arrested and extradited to the US if he visits certain countries, a fear the FIFA president confirmed in the German newspaper interview.
“Until everything is clarified I won’t take any travel risks,” Blatter was quoted as saying.