Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said that awarding Qatar the 2022 World Cup was “a mistake” and the organisation’s original decision was to hold the tournament in the USA.
Blatter, who served as FIFA’s head between 1998 and 2015, was in charge when the decisions over the 2018 and 2022 host countries were made, with the latter edition set to begin this month.
Blatter, who also questioned current FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s decision to base himself in Qatar, was cleared from corruption charges earlier this year relating to his time at FIFA, but remains banned from football until 2027 for multiple breaches of FIFA’s ethics code.
“The choice of Qatar was a mistake,” Blatter told Swiss outlet Tages Anzeiger.
“At the time, we actually agreed in the executive committee that Russia should get the 2018 World Cup and the USA should get it in 2022.
“It would have been a gesture of peace if the two long-standing political opponents had hosted the World Cup one after the other.
“It [Qatar] is too small a country. Football and the World Cup are too big for that.
“For me it is clear. Qatar is a mistake. The choice was bad. What I’m wondering is why is the new FIFA president [Infantino] living in Qatar?
“He can’t be the head of the local World Cup organisation. That’s not his job. There are two organising committees for this – a local one and one from FIFA.”
According to Blatter, the United States’ chances of hosting the 2022 tournament were disrupted by former UEFA president Michel Platini.
“Thanks to the four votes of Platini and his [UEFA] team, the World Cup went to Qatar rather than the United States. It’s the truth,” said Blatter.
“Platini told me he had been invited to the Elysee Palace, where then French president [Nicolas] Sarkozy had just had lunch with the Crown Prince of Qatar.
“Sarkozy said to Platini: ‘See what you and your colleagues from UEFA can do for Qatar when the World Cup is awarded.’ I then asked him: ‘And now?’
Blatter says Platini’s response was: “’Sepp, what would you do if your president asked you for something?’ I then told him that the question didn’t arise for me because we don’t have a president in Switzerland.”
Blatter’s comments will add further unease to the tournament’s build-up, with many in the game highlighting issues surrounding migrant workers, human rights and gender equality in Qatar.
“I can only repeat: the award to Qatar was a mistake, and I was responsible for that as president at the time,” added Blatter.
“Now that the World Cup is imminent, I’m glad that, with a few exceptions, no footballers are boycotting the World Cup.”
The first match of the event sees Qatar host Ecuador on November 20, with the final taking place in Doha on December 18.
England play their first game against Iran on November 21.
Arsenal and England centre-back Lotte Wubben-Moy has revealed she will not be watching the World Cup, as a result of the Lionesses “strong values not being reflected in Qatar”.
Beth Mead is another England star to have spoken out about the issues, calling Qatar’s ban on homosexuality “the complete opposite to what I believe and respect”.