PARIS/NYON: Angry UEFA president Michel Platini has threatened to sue for defamation any publications which raise doubts over his integrity in having voted for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup.
Platini was reacting to a 16-page narrative in the Paris bi-weekly, France Football, which pulled together all the facts and fables surrounding the surprise decision by the FIFA executive committee in December 2010.
FIFA, misguidedly, had decided to run the 2018 and 2022 bidding process simultaneously. The exco, shorn of two members in a vote-for-sale scandal, awarded 2018 to Russia and 2022 to the Gulf state. Qatar won on fourth ballot by 14-8 ahead of the United States.
Japan, South Korea and Australia were eliminated in earlier rounds of voting.
France Football, a business partner of FIFA since 2010 in the annual World Player of the Year award, has included in its narrative a resume of a dinner hosted by then French President Nicolas Sarkozy and attended by the Emir of Qatar, by Platini and another business associate.
The magazine postulated that Sarkozy’s interest in attracting Qatari investment, notably into the French television market, may have helped persuade Platini to vote for Qatar and not for the United States.
Platini has denied the suggestion in a statement issued via AFP saying: “To think that my vote for Qatar depended on arrangements between the French state and Qatar is mere invention and only in the minds of those who wrote these lies.
“I will not hesitate to sue anyone who questions my integrity in the ballot.
“As I have always insisted, President Sarkozy would never even have asked me to vote for Qatar because he knows I have a mind of my own. I made my choice in total independence of spirit, following simple logic – opening up opportunities for countries which have never yet hosted the great sporting events.”
The France Football report casts as many slurs as possible over the Qatar hosting, including detailed references to the FIFA presidency bid scandal surrounding Mohamed Bin Hammam, the scandal-tainted flight into exile of former Brazil football supremo Ricardo Teixeira and the investments of the Qatari state in the French economy.
As for Platini, France Football not only casts aspersions over his dinner with Sarkozy and the Emir but points out that Platini’s son later went to work for a Qatari sportswear company.
Former FIFA communciations chief Guido Tognoni, in an interview, is quoted as saying it is not possible to rerun the World Cup votes while Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, chairman of the European Club Association and chief executive of Bayern Munich, comments equivocally about whether the 2022 finals should be staged in the winter.
Qatar 2022 insisted that it had behaved properly at all times during the World Cup bidding process and acted within the rules.
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