February 3, 2023

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World Cup 2022: Awarding the tournament to Qatar was a mistake, says ex-Fifa President Sepp Blatter

Sepp BlatterSepp Blatter first came to Fifa in 1975 as Technical Director and was elected President in 1998

Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter says the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was a “mistake”.

Blatter, 86, was president of world football’s governing body when Qatar won the tournament in 2010.

The Gulf state has been criticized for its stance on same-sex relationships, human rights abuses and the treatment of migrant workers.

Qatar World Cup Ambassador Khalid Salman said homosexuality is “damage to the spirit”.

The former Qatar international has told German broadcaster ZDF that LGBTQ+ people attending the tournament should “accept our rules”.

There are concerns about how LGBTQ+ people are treated in Qatar, where same-sex relationships and the promotion of same-sex relationships are criminalized with penalties ranging from fines to the death sentence.

Speaking on the upcoming BBC Radio 5 Live podcast series Power Play – The House of Sepp Blatter on the decision to award Qatar the World Cup, Blatter said: “I was right at one point when I said, ‘That shouldn’t go there.’”

In an interview with the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger, he added that Qatar was “too small a country” to host the tournament and that “football and the World Cup are too big for it”.

The World Cup in Qatar, the first to be held in the Middle East in the tournament’s 92-year history and the first in the northern hemisphere’s winter, will be held from November 20 to December 18.

The Fifa Executive Committee voted 14-8 12 years ago to allow Qatar to host the tournament ahead of the United States, while Russia was awarded the 2018 event.

Blatter says he voted for the United States and accused then-UEFA President Michel Platini of swinging the vote in favor of Qatar.

“It was a bad election and I was responsible for that as president at the time,” he said.

“Thanks to the four voices of Platini and his [Uefa] team, the World Cup went to Qatar and not to the USA. It’s the truth.”

Blatter also said Fifa adjusted the criteria for selecting host countries in 2012 after concerns were raised about the treatment of migrant workers building World Cup stadiums in Qatar.

“Social and human rights have been taken into account ever since,” he added.

Blatter was Fifa president for 17 years but was forced to resign in 2015 amid allegations of unlawfully arranging a transfer of two million Swiss francs (US$2.19m; £1.6m) to Platini, who was also forced was to give up his position at Fifa.

Because of the Platini payment, he was originally banned from football by Fifa for eight years, later reduced to six years. In March 2021 he received an additional ban until 2028 for “various violations” of Fifa’s code of ethics.

Blatter and Platini were charged with fraud last November but found not guilty in a court hearing in Switzerland in July.

The decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively, has been accompanied by allegations of widespread corruption, with two investigations launched in 2015 by Swiss prosecutors and the US Department of Justice.

Qatar and Russia have consistently denied any wrongdoing, and both were effectively acquitted by Fifa’s own investigations in 2017.

Fifa recently wrote to rival nations, urging them to “focus on football now” rather than the controversial build-up of the competition.

The Fifa letter drew criticism from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and LGBTQ+ campaigners in England and Wales, while 10 European football associations – including those of England and Wales – said “human rights are universal and apply everywhere”.

Amnesty International says since 2010 hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have faced human rights abuses while employed to build the broader infrastructure needed to host the tournament.

Some players have planned peaceful protests, while England’s Harry Kane and nine other European side captains will wear ‘One Love’ armbands. promoting diversity and inclusion.

Denmark will wear “toned down” kits to protest Qatar, with kit maker Hummel saying they “don’t want to be visible” in a tournament it claims has “taken thousands of lives” while Australia Kader released a video urging Qatar to scrap its laws on same-sex relationships.

World Cup ambassador says homosexuality is ‘damage to the mind’

Salman spoke to ZDF in a documentary that will air on Tuesday.

“You have to accept our rules here,” he said. “[Homosexuality] is haram. You know what haram is [forbidden] means?”

When asked why it is haram, Salman said, “I’m not a strict Muslim, but why is it haram? Because it is damage in spirit.”

The questioning was immediately terminated by an accompanying officer.

The host country’s World Cup organizers have said “everyone is welcome” to visit the country to watch the football matches and claim no one will be discriminated against.

However, Qatar 2022 executive director Nasser al Khater said the government will not change its laws on homosexuality and urged visitors to “respect our culture”.

Robbie de Santos, director of communications and external affairs at LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, said human rights were being “disregarded and disregarded”.

Speaking to BBC World Service’s Sport Today, he added: “It is surprising and disappointing that the Qatari authorities have given assurances to the United Nations and other multilateral bodies to respect human rights during the tournament and to work for social progress engage, and what we see is these commitments are not being met.

“That’s why it’s so important that we all around the world listen and follow the tournament and know that football is really everyone’s business, that we all speak.”

BBC Sport has reached out to Fifa and the World Cup Organizing Committee for comment.

Power Play – The House of Sepp Blatter is available on BBC Sounds from November 15th.