There is “no way” that Qatar will be stripped of its right to host the 2022 World Cup, the country’s foreign minister has asserted, amid concerns that a widening FIFA corruption scandal could affect where the next two football tournaments will be held.
Speaking in Paris the day after FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s surprise resignation this week, Dr. Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah responded to questions about Qatar’s bid by saying, according to Reuters:
“No way Qatar can be stripped (of it). We are confident of the procedures and deserve to win it because we presented the best file (bid).”
His remarks came as US law enforcement officials who arrested several top FIFA officials over corruption charges last week confirmed they were widening their probe to include the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, Reuters reports.
The statement also follows the Swiss Attorney General’s announcement last week that it would undertake its own investigation into the bidding process.
Both Russia and Qatar have previously denied any wrongdoing and were not the subject of charges announced a week ago by US prosecutors.
Qatar was also cleared of allegations in the summary of an investigation led by US attorney Michael Garcia, which was released last year. However, Garcia later resigned after he claimed the summary misrepresented some of the findings in his own report.
Meanwhile, Al Attiyah this week also accused critics of Qatar of running an anti-Arab campaign, fueled by “prejudice and racism.”
“It is very difficult for some to digest that an Arab Islamic country has this tournament, as if this right can’t be for an Arab state. I believe it is because of prejudice and racism that we have this bashing campaign against Qatar,” he said.
His comments echoed a similar statement made by Qatar’s former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani earlier this week, when he said in an interview with Fox News that residents in the region believe the Qatar criticism is driven in part by racism.
Reiterating claims that Qatar fought a clean campaign to win the rights to host the tournament, Al Attiyah added, “We are honest and confident we haven’t (committed) any wrongdoing.”
Finally, he suggested that Qatar would eventually expose the countries and organizations that it believes to be behind a smear campaign involving its bid:
“We are not in a position today to show what we have in terms of who is behind this campaign against Qatar and why they are trying to deprive Qatar of this right.
But when the time comes we will show the public what we have, whether it comes from entities or countries from outside the region or not. The time hasn’t come yet,” he said.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s World Cup organizing committee said that Blatter’s resignation would “not impact” the country’s ongoing preparations for 2022, AFP reports.
In a statement yesterday, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SCDL) added that work had already begun on five of the stadiums that would be used during the tournament, and that everything is currently “ahead of schedule.”
Alluding to al-Attiyah’s comments on racism, the Supreme Committee continued:
“We remain committed to using the World Cup as a platform to break down prejudice and misconceptions, while leaving a lasting legacy for our country and the rest of the region.”
After Blatter stepped down, many commentators questioned if Qatar would retain its right to host the 2022 matches.
Just minutes after the resignation, Chairman of the English Football Association Greg Dyke said: “If I were Qatar right now, I wouldn’t be feeling very comfortable.”
But the president of the Qatar Football Association, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Thani, quickly denounced Dyke for his statement, saying it “speaks volumes on his views concerning what will be the first FIFA World Cup to take place in the Middle East.”
Al Thani said he welcomed the forthcoming investigations, and challenged Dyke to focus on creating a winning English football team for 2o22, adding:
“We would urge Mr. Dyke to let the legal process take its course and concentrate on delivering his promise to build an England team capable of winning the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.”