Sepp Blatter has admitted the decision to award the World Cup to Qatar when he was FIFA president was a “mistake”.
The build-up to this year’s World Cup has been dogged by concerns about the suffering of low-paid migrant workers to build the infrastructure in the tiny Gulf nation and discriminatory laws that criminalise same-sex relations.
Blatter, 86, was the boss of FIFA in 2010 when its executive committee controversially voted for the World Cup to be held in Russia and Qatar in 2018 and 2022 respectively.
Blatter claims he did not vote for Qatar and instead wanted a “gesture of peace” by hosting the two tournaments in Russia and then the USA.
“The choice of Qatar was a mistake,” Blatter said in an interview with Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, his first since being cleared of fraud charges in July following a £1.7m payment to the former UEFA president Michel Platini.
“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.
“It’s too small a country. Football and the World Cup are too big for that.”