Sepp Blatter says Qatar was ‘a bad choice’ to host the World Cup. In earnest
Sepp Blatter was President of FIFA for 17 years (1998-2015), which is in a constant battle with the International Olympic Committee for the title of the most corrupt sports governing body in the world.
He once managed to be re-elected after the US Department of Justice charged 14 executives and employees with racketeering stemming from an alleged widespread culture of bribery and kickbacks, often linked to votes to host World Cups. Many were taken from their soft hotel beds in fashionable Zurich hotels by the Swiss authorities during a FIFA congress.
When Blatter finally resigned from disfavor, he had the audacity to declare: “FIFA needs a deep restructuring.”
In earnest? Of course it did, and of course still does, but perhaps Blatter could have worked on it during his nearly two decades in office.
But that’s Sepp Blatter, the swindler of all swindlers.
This is the guy who has overseen so many underhanded deals that the World Cup is set to take place in November and December – upsetting professional calendars and challenging viewer habits – because under extremely suspicious circumstances and with tragic consequences, Qatar somehow won the 2022 bid.
Blatter, now 86, also regrets that.
“It was a bad election and I was responsible for that as president at the time,” he said.
You might say it’s better late than never to make an obvious statement, but this is how men like Blatter try to salve their conscience (sort of). Then, now and always it was a bad choice. It was also ridiculous, with the United States, among other countries, ready and willing to take on the duties.
Instead, it went to a small oil country with a pathetic human rights record, a history of surveillance crackdowns, a deadly migrant labor problem, and a climate that has made this whole thing unfortunate.
Injuries have banished numerous top players. National teams have little time to get in shape. Fans are afraid that their every move will be followed. In the US at least, the event will compete against the NFL and college football for attention.
And maybe only someone with the moral compass of a FIFA executive can sit in one of those shiny new stadiums and not wonder how many Nepalese workers died building that thing. The truth? Nobody will ever know.
Blatter doesn’t seem too concerned about that, however. He is now against Qatar because they are ‘too small’.
Qatar’s unexpected 14-8 win over the US in 2010 was suspicious at the time and only got worse.
It had no viable argument other than that the World Cup had never been held in the Middle East. There were reasons for this though, and not just that summer temperatures can soar to 130 degrees.
“Thanks to the four votes of [former UEFA chief Michael] Platini and his team went to Qatar and not to the USA,” Blatter told the Swiss daily Tages-Anzeiger on Tuesday. “It’s the truth.”
Blatter said then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy summoned Platini, a legendary player in the country, and told him to “see what you and your colleagues at UEFA can do for Qatar if the World Cup is awarded”.
Just like that, Qatar was in and the US was out.
“But of course it was also about money,” said Blatter. “Six months later, Qatar bought the French fighter jets for $14.6 billion.”
It’s classic FIFA, and it wasn’t the only minor thing that made an impact. Both Blatter and Platini have been investigated and sanctioned, even once banned from football altogether.
Almost nothing was legitimate at FIFA under Blatter’s rule, and anyone who was paying attention knew it. This largely worthless international governing body has the world’s most popular sport in its hands and can tear down almost anyone, anywhere.
The World Cup is of course the crown jewel. And like the Olympics, desperate countries, often run by despot leaders, tried to host the games to present themselves well on the international stage – or to allow government money to flow to preferred contractors, which then a little to the politicians returns – FIFA officials played along.
The World Cup took place in Brazil, where it left a trail of white elephant stadiums. It was in Russia that Vladimir Putin used it to boost his reputation and power.
“Putin is no longer the person I met then,” Blatter said, noting that he condemned the current invasion of Ukraine.
Actually, he’s exactly the same person. Blatter just never bothered at the time.
Now it is Qatar with its 15th century social views.
It’s a beautiful game, they like to say about football, but it’s always been an ugly business and nobody knows that better than Sepp Blatter, the former boss who oversaw it all and is now apparently trying to find religion.
a mistake? Yes, no kidding. And an avoidable one, no matter how many billions were distributed.