Blatter, Platini and how Qatar ended up hosting the biggest show on earth
Posted by  badge Boss on Nov 20
12 years after Blatter announced Qatar as the hosts of the 2022 World Cup, he has admitted it was a mistake (Picture: Pressefoto Ulmerullstein bild via Getty Images)

‘The winner to host the 2022 World Cup is !’

These were the words of Sepp Blatter, then boss of soccer’s world governing body FIFA, in 2010 as it was announced the planet’s biggest sports event was heading to the for the first time.

Fast forward 12 years and, as teams from some 32 countries prepare to do battle for the famous golden trophy, Mr Blatter is singing from a very different hymn sheet.

‘,’ the 86-year-old told Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger last week.

‘It’s too small a country. Football and the World Cup are too big for that.’

So how on earth did Qatar secure the rights to host such a glittering event? It’s a question that has left many baffled since that fateful day twelve years ago.

In many ways, the answers remain shrouded in mystery. There is plenty of evidence to suggest corruption and foul play were at hand. Proving that to be the case has been much harder.

At the heart of much of the controversy have been Blatter, a Swiss football administrator who served as president of FIFA for 17 years from 1998 and was never far away from controversy during that time.

Alongside him was legend Michel Platini. Regarded as one of the greatest ever footballers and with 72 French caps to his name, he was president of Europe’s football governing body EUFA for eight years from 2007.

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There are plenty of reasons to suggest the country, which measures just over 11,000 sq. kilometres and has a population roughly the size of Greater Manchester (around 3m people), should never have even been on the shortlist for the greatest honour in football.

As Blatter pointed out, it’s easily the smallest country to have ever hosted the tournament.

There were also initial concerns about the extreme heat players would have to face, and then, when the tournament was moved to winter, it led to fears about the impact on domestic football in those countries taking part. 

Blatter has since declared Qatar ”too small a country’ for the tournament, adding ‘football and the World Cup are too big for that.’ (Picture: REUTERS)

Meanwhile, a consortium of footballers, led by Norwegian international Morten Thorsby, embarked on a high-profile campaign to raise fears about the environmental impact of the tournament.

However, by far and away the biggest controversy to dog the event and the initial decision to hand it to Qatar has been over the country’s human rights record.

The country’s migrant workers face appalling conditions and many have died whilst building the infrastructure for the tournament itself. Qatar is also renowned for its curtailment of freedom of expression and ongoing discrimination against women and .

All of which would have been known to the 22 FIFA executive committee members who voted in the country’s favour back in 2010.

Yet somehow they managed to gain the majority ahead of Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States – all of whom were arguably much better suited to host the 92-year-old tournament.

According to Ceri Wynne, senior lecturer in Sport and Exercise at the University of Gloucestershire and a former professional rugby player, it all came down to a question of politics.

Ceri Wynne says the vote went the way of Qatar ‘because of politics and corruption and nothing to do with sport’ (Picture: Supplied)

‘For too long, sport has been used as a political tool, with governments seeing it as a way to further their standing in the world. That goes right back to the 1936 Olympics and Hitler using it for propaganda,’ he tells Metro.co.uk.

‘The government of Qatar has simply realised they can use sport as a way of getting a place on the world’s top table.

‘Sadly, the whole reason the vote went the way of Qatar was because of politics and corruption and nothing to do with sport.’

Allegations of corruption started to emerge even before the vote was made.

In November 2010, a full month before the final vote, FIFA committee members Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii were banned from the ballot.

The pair were secretly filmed by reporters from the Sunday Times, with Adamu apparently agreeing to exchange his World Cup votes for cash. He still denies any wrongdoing.

Of the 22 who took part in the vote, a staggering 17 individuals have since been banned, accused or indicted over allegations linked to Qatar 2022 (Picture: Mohammed Dabbous/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Temarii was initially suspended for discussing World Cup votes with reporters but was later banned from football for eight years for taking Qatari powerbroker Mohamed bin Hammam’s money to pay legal costs, raising further concerns about links between FIFA and the possible host nation.

A few weeks later, concerns grew when the Sunday Times published further claims, with former FIFA general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen allegedly being secretly filmed identifying officials who he said could be bribed to buy their votes.

He said at the time: ‘The problem is that there is manifestly – as (FIFA president Sepp) Blatter has said – an endemic problem in terms of corruption in sports and also in politics.’

Up to the actual vote, however, there was nothing to prove Qatar had directly benefitted from any alleged corruption within FIFA. If bribes were being taken, there were done so carefully and with little or no paper trail.

Those suspicions have grown considerably in the years leading up to the event, even though FIFA continues to deny any wrongdoing in the process.

Of the 22 who took part in the vote, a staggering 17 individuals have since been banned, accused or indicted over allegations linked to Qatar 2022, as well as the decision for Russia to host the World Cup four years earlier.

Easily the most high-profile example was Blatter himself, who resigned in 2015 after the FBI began a probe into alleged corruption at FIFA.

Blatter and Platini were both cleared of fraud. They were dogged by accusations of bribery and money laundering within the organisation (Picture: Patrick B. Kraemer/Keystone via AP, File)

He, along with Michel Platini, FIFA’s then president and a French football legend, left their roles after the investigation highlighted an alleged litany of bribery, fraud and money laundering at FIFA.

Although neither Blatter nor Platini has been proven to have accepted bribes themselves, US prosecutors did accuse three then senior FIFA officials of receiving bribes to vote for Qatar. Two have since died and the third, Ricardo Teixeira, remains in Brazil where he cannot be indicted to the US.

Despite this, in 2014, FIFA’s own internal investigation cleared Qatar of any breaches of the rules in the bidding process, declaring the country fit to host the 2022. Many questioned the neutrality of that probe.

Meanwhile, last year both Platini and Blatter were cleared of corruption charges by a Swiss court regarding money exchanged between the pair.

Even so, doubts refuse to disappear, while Blatter himself further muddied the water by claiming the votes were linked to Qatar agreeing an arms deal with France.

He said this week that ‘thanks to Platini’s four votes’ the World Cup went to Qatar instead of the United States and that six months later Qatar purchased fighter jets from the French for billions of pounds. No response has so far come from either Platini or the French government.

Of course, there are many who believe all of this will matter little once the actual football begins.

Ceri Wynne plans to boycott the World Cup, even though his beloved Welsh team are taking part.

He doesn’t, however, believe many will do the same, adding: ‘I’m fed up with sport being used as a political tool. We have lost sight of its real value and its benefit to society.

‘I think the majority of people might agree but will watch it anyway, they are so used to sport being used like this and think they can’t make a difference.

‘But history shows us people can make a difference. If people didn’t act and make a stand, history would be very different to how it is.

‘I just hope the experience will be so bad and so different to what people are used to there will be a backlash and people will say “this mustn’t happen again”. It could be a watershed.’

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