Presidents ‘leaned on W Cup vote’


Published: Sunday 5th July 2015 by The News Editor

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Fifa president Sepp Blatter has said French and German presidents applied political pressure before the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded to Russia and Qatar.

Mr Blatter, 79, told Welt am Sonntag that “there were two political interventions” from former French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German counterpart Christian Wulff before the hosts were announced on December 2 2010.

“Messrs Sarkozy and Wulff tried to influence their voting representatives. That’s why we now have a World Cup in Qatar. Those who decided it should take responsibility for it,” said Mr Blatter, who said he was tired of taking the blame for something he had no control over.

“I act on the leadership principle. If a majority of the executive committee wants a World Cup in Qatar then I have to accept that,” Blatter said.

He suggested that the German football federation (DFB) received a recommendation from Mr Wulff “to vote for Qatar out of economic interests”.

Former DFB president Theo Zwanziger said in his book that Mr Wulff had asked about Qatar’s chances but he denied it had had any influence. Franz Beckenbauer, an executive committee member at the time, has never indicated which country he voted for.

Mr Blatter accepted no responsibly for the plight of migrant labourers building stadiums in Qatar amid reports of human rights abuses.

“Look at the German companies!” he said before naming railway and construction firms. “Deutsche Bahn, Hochtief and many more had projects in Qatar even before the World Cup was awarded.”

Mr Blatter was instead concentrating on saving Fifa, which has been rocked by a widening American corruption probe that alleges bribery and racketeering worth more than £97 million involving high-ranking Fifa officials over a 24-year span.

“I’m there now to fight. Not for myself but for Fifa,” said Mr Blatter, who added he was on the right path and had no doubts. “Self-doubt is a leader’s greatest enemy.”

He announced his intention to leave office on June 2, four days after he was re-elected for a fifth four-year term, as pressure built from the American case and a separate Swiss federal investigation focused on possible money laundering linked to the awarding of the World Cups to Russia and Qatar.

But he remains defiant despite the scandal engulfing world football’s governing body.

“Is Fifa responsible from the top down for everything in football, what happens in some village somewhere around the world?” asked Mr Blatter, also a target of the American investigation.

“Everyone has fears, for example of death, but with regard to my work at Fifa I have no fear. I’ve nothing to be afraid of.

“I’m afraid that they want to wreck Fifa, a work that I helped create.”

Mr Blatter said he accepts criticism but “what hurts are hateful tirades. They come from envy”.

He cannot be extradited from his native Switzerland to the US without his consent but he risks arrest in many countries. He is not travelling to Canada for the Women’s World Cup final in Vancouver today.

“Until everything is clarified I won’t take any travel risks,” he said.

However, he will be travelling to Russia for the qualification draw on July 25 for the 2018 World Cup.

Mr Blatter has found support from Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has accused American authorities of meddling in football affairs.

Published: Sunday 5th July 2015 by The News Editor

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