Sepp Blatter finally admits 'mistake' regarding Qatar World Cup
Got there in the end.
It's taken him 12 years to get there but Sepp Blatter, the former president of Fifa, has finally admitted the decision to hand the World Cup to Qatar was a 'mistake'.
In 2010, Blatter was the helm of world football's governing body when Qatar was given the 2022 tournament, along with Russia getting hosting rights for 2018.
Since then, Qatar has received widespread criticism on a number of issues linked to its hosting of the World Cup, often relating to its treatment of migrant workers and attitudes and laws towards homosexuality in the country.
Blatter, now 86, was acquitted of charges of fraud by a Swiss court earlier this tear. This followed a £1.7m payment to former Uefa president Michel Platini, for which he remains banned from being involved in football.
In an interview given to Swiss outlet Tages-Anzeiger, he said he wanted to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and the United States of America in what he thought would be a “gesture of peace”. The excutive committee, meanwhile, had other ideas, and voted for Qatar instead.
"The choice of Qatar was a mistake," he said. "At the time, we actually agreed in the executive committee that Russia should get the 2018 World Cup and the USA that of 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."
On Qatar, he said: "It’s too small a country. Football and the World Cup are too big for that."
Pressed on if he felt responsible for the decision, he added: "For me it is clear that Qatar is a mistake. The choice was bad. What I’m wondering is why is the new Fifa president [Gianni 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."
Despite expressing his regret that the tournament ended up in Qatar, he also said he was pleased the tournament would be going ahead without players boycotting it.
"Now that the World Cup is imminent, I’m glad that, with a few exceptions, no footballers are boycotting the World Cup."
Blatter was also asked about the Russian World Cup and, in hindsight, if he regretted that given suggestions Vladimir Putin used it as a platform for propaganda. He said he did not regret it, adding:
"Many others also use sport for political purposes. I’m not a judge and I don’t want to judge that."
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