Politics 'influenced' Cup voting

Fifa President Sepp Blatter addresses a news conference at the Fifa headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland on June 2, 2015.
Fifa President Sepp Blatter addresses a news conference at the Fifa headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland on June 2, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN • Sepp Blatter, the head of Fifa which is mired in corruption allegations, told a German newspaper yesterday that there had been "political interventions" over the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

"Before the assignment of the World Cup to Russia and Qatar, there were two political interventions," Blatter, president of world football's governing body, said in comments reported by Welt am Sonntag.

"The Misters (Nicolas) Sarkozy and (Christian) Wulff tried to influence their electoral delegates," he added, referring to the former French and German presidents.

"That is the reason why we now have a World Cup in Qatar. Those who decided this should also take the responsibility."

Blatter also claimed that the German Football Association had received a recommendation from former German president Wulff "that Germany vote for Qatar because of economic interests", without giving any more details.

"Just look at all the German companies - the Deutsche Bahn (German railways), Hochtief and many more all already had projects in Qatar before the World Cup was awarded there," added the Swiss.

"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."

The 79-year-old had announced on June 2, just days after being re-elected, that he would step down from the Fifa presidency at an extraordinary congress to be held between December this year and March 2016.

The decision followed a crisis that engulfed Fifa with 18 people - including Fifa vice-president Jeffrey Webb - indicted in the United States on football-related corruption charges involving millions of dollars in bribes.

Blatter has repeatedly pleaded his innocence and that of Fifa, insisting he has "nothing to fear".

"My only fear is that people want to destroy Fifa," he said. "I have nothing to fear in terms of my work at Fifa. I am not afraid."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2015, with the headline 'Politics 'influenced' Cup voting'. Print Edition | Subscribe