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Thursday, March 4, 2021

During Doha visit, Blatter reverses support for shared World Cup

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Sepp Blatter

Following a meeting with the Emir of Qatar yesterday, FIFA President Sepp Blatter denied supporting the idea of a shared World Cup, despite remarks he had made in Abu Dhabi the day before, stating the opposite.

“We have decided never go in two countries, or three, if one country is able to do so,” he said during a press conference at the Four Seasons yesterday.

Qatar has long opposed sharing the 2022 World Cup with neighboring countries, saying, among others things, that it would be inconvenient for fans to have to
travel around to attend matches.

But on Friday, when asked about the prospect of matches in the tournament being played outside of Qatar, Blatter said:

“I keep a big question mark on this. I have just passed through Iran and, even on a political level, people told me they would be happy to host some of the
matches.

“So not even in the Gulf state but in the Middle East in general. The UAE would also be very eager, but let’s go step by step.”

Standing alongside Mohammad Al Thani, the managing director of Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee and a brother of the Emir, Blatter also expressed his support
for moving the tournament from June/July to November or December. The games could not be held in January because of the winter Olympics, he said.

But the official added that any change would still require consultation from the participating members.

Labor issues

The FIFA official’s visit comes on the heels of mounting international pressure to reform Qatar’s labor laws, including some calls for a revote, a campaign sponsored
by the International Trade Union Confederation.

Blatter acknowledged this call, saying:

“The perception that in this country, in the state of Qatar, we are aware of some problems, we are aware. But we are reacting and we are already starting to react.

We are not responsible, I repeat, for the laws, but we are happy to see when the laws are recommended. We are responsible for the organization, and we want to have the organization of the world cup in a country that will deliver the World Cup, also in respect to the national laws with respect and international recognition.”

On Twitter, he added:

Ahead of his visit, ITUC had warned Blatter not to return from Qatar “empty-handed” with regards to workers’ rights.

In a statement, ITUC Secretary General Sharan Burrow said:

“It is shameful that FIFA continues to distance itself from taking any real action in Qatar despite FIFA inspired worker laws evident in other countries hosting the World Cup. FIFA and its local organising committee in Qatar have the power to ensure the government guarantees rights and better conditions for 1.3 million workers in Qatar.”

Meanwhile, Blatter and Al Thani insisted upon the readiness of Qatar to host the World Cup in 2022.

“I am happy that the World Cup in this country can be the kind of catalyst also for other countries organizing big competitions, whether world cup or big games, to build up the social part that will also be registered later as a legacy,” Blatter said.

“We are ready to deliver it, whether it is in the summer or the winter, and either way, it is going to be an amazing world cup,” Al Thani added.

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