With under two weeks to go until the World Cup begins, former FIFA president Sepp Blatter says it should not have been awarded to Qatar.
Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter says hosting the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is “a mistake”.
Blatter was in charge of football’s world governing body in 2010 when the Gulf nation was controversially selected to stage the upcoming tournament.
The build-up to the showpiece, which begins on November 20, has been dominated by concerns over the treatment of workers and laws that criminalise same-sex relations.
Blatter, who was cleared of fraud charges by a Swiss court earlier this year over financial misconduct allegations, maintains he never personally voted for Qatar to hold the event.
“The choice of Qatar was a mistake,” he said in an interview with Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger.
“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.
“[Qatar] is too small a country. Football and the World Cup are too big for that.”
Amid a backdrop of political unrest in the build-up to Qatar 2022, FIFA president Gianni Infantino last week urged the 32 competing nations to focus solely on football matters.
“We know football does not live in a vacuum and we are equally aware that there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all around the world,” FIFA’s letter read.
“At FIFA, we try to respect all opinions and beliefs, without handing out moral lessons to the rest of the world.
“One of the great strengths of the world is indeed its very diversity, and if inclusion means anything, it means having respect for that diversity.”
Qatar has been transformed over the past 12 years in preparation for the event, but Blatter – who led FIFA for 17 years – says it should be held elsewhere.
“I can only repeat: the award to Qatar was a mistake, and I was responsible for that as president at the time,” he said.
“Now that the World Cup is imminent, I’m glad that, with a few exceptions, no footballers are boycotting the World Cup. For me it is clear: Qatar is a mistake. The choice was bad.”