ZURICH: Sepp Blatter has found himself enveloped yet again in the curse of Qatar after his latest comment on the issue was lost less in translation and more in technicality writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Blatter, president of world football federation FIFA, sent alarm bells ringing through Asian football when he was reported to have said that taking the finals to the Gulf state had been “a mistake.”
The comment bore apparent extra significance, coming only two days after he had cancelled an imminent trip to Doha after the Qatar government’s botched handling of an announcement about amendments to its labour laws.
Qatar was awarded host rights by FIFA to the first World Cup in the Middle East in December 2010 amid controversy which has never faded away among concerns over both the bidding process and the timing of the tournament.
In an interview with Swiss channel RTS Blatter answered a question on whether the Qatar award had been mistaken, by saying: “Of course it was a mistake. You know, one makes a lot of mistakes in life.
“The technical report indicated clearly that it was too hot in summer but, despite that, the executive committee decided, with quite a big majority, that the tournament would be in Qatar.”
Within hours FIFA issued a clarifying statement, insisting that Blatter had meant to refer only to the issue of searing summer temperatures rather than the award itself.
FIFA said: “As explained in his answer to the journalist, the president reiterated that the decision to award the World Cup was an ‘error’ based on the technical assessment report of the bid which had highlighted the extremely hot temperatures in summer in Qatar.
“At no stage did he question Qatar as the host of the World Cup.”
The difference between an ‘award’ and a ‘summer award’ may be considered marginal, given that all the bidding nations understood they were competing to host the finals in the traditional June/July slot.