Sepp Blatter has not specifically mentioned Qatar’s labour and human rights criticism since 2010. He did, however, question why his successor as FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, has been living in Qatar for at least a year.

The decision to host the World Cup in Qatar 12 years ago was a mistake, FIFA’s president at the time, Sepp Blatter, said Tuesday, citing a meeting between Nicolas Sarkozy and Michel Platini as swaying key votes. The 86-year-old Blatter gave his first major interview since being acquitted with Platini in July of financial misconduct at FIFA following a trial at federal criminal court.

“It’s a country that’s too small,” Blatter said of Qatar, the smallest host country in terms of population since the 1954 tournament in Switzerland. “Football and the World Cup are far too important for that.”

The 32 teams will play 64 games in eight stadiums in and around Doha, which has been transformed by massive construction projects since 2010 in preparation for the World Cup.

Games start on November 20 with about 1.2 million international visitors expected to arrive in Qatar during the World Cup. Because there are few places to stay in the host country, some people will travel from neighbouring states.

“It was a bad decision.” And as president at the time, I was responsible for that,” said Blatter, who has long stated that he voted for the United States. Its bid was defeated in the final round of a five-candidate competition to host the 2022 Olympics by Qatar.

The fact that an expected US victory shifted to Qatar during a meeting hosted by Sarkozy in Paris the week before the December 2, 2010 vote by FIFA’s executive committee became part of FIFA lore.

Platini, then president of European soccer body UEFA and a vice president of FIFA, was invited to Sarkozy’s official residence by then-state president Sarkozy. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatar’s crown prince and now Emir, was also present.

Blatter reiterated his claim that Sarkozy put pressure on Platini on Tuesday, and provided his version of a phone call Platini made to him after the Paris meeting to inform him that the World Cup voting plan had changed.

“The World Cup was awarded to Qatar rather than the United States as a result of Platini and his (UEFA) team’s four votes.” “It’s the truth,” Blatter said, referring to the 14-8 vote result.

Platini broadly confirmed the significance of that Paris meeting in comments to the Associated Press in 2015. Platini told an AP reporter in Zurich seven years ago, “Sarkozy never asked me to vote for Qatar, but I knew what would be good.” He admitted that he “might have told” American officials that he would support their 2022 bid.

Since 2010, Blatter has not specifically mentioned Qatar’s labour and human rights criticism. He did, however, question why his successor as FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, has been living in Qatar for at least a year.

Blatter noted growing calls from rights groups and several FIFA member federations, including the United States and England, to establish a compensation fund for families of workers killed or injured on the job. The Qatari government has rejected the calls, calling them a “publicity stunt.”

“What can FIFA say if its president finds himself in the same situation as Qatar?” Blatter spoke about Infantino’s decision to live in Doha.

FIFA did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the interview.

Blatter, who was a guest of Russia during the 2018 World Cup while he and Platini were suspended by FIFA, told Swiss newspaper reporters that he would watch games on television in Zurich in the coming weeks.

Topics #FIFA #FIFA World Cup #World Cup #World Cup in Qatar