ZURICH/NURNBERG: FIFA president Sepp Blatter has criticised UEFA’s decision to spread the 2020 European Championship finals across the entire continent.
The European federation approved the proposal from president Michel Platini last autumn after running short of what it considered credible candidates for the finals, now they have been expanded to an overblown 24 teams.
Blatter, initially, sent Frenchman Platini – one of his FIFA vice-presidents – a message of congratulations on such an imaginative initiative. Now, with further time to reflect and a gap opening up between them on various policy issues, Blatter has had second thoughts.
He revealed them in an interview with the German biweekly sports magazine, Kicker.
Blatter said: “A tournament should be played out in one country. As such, it creates identity and excitement, just the ‘fairytale’ World Cup inGermanyin 2006, for instance
“I think UEFA is being overambitious with the 2020 tournament. It is no longer a European Championship. It needs a new name, but I don’t know what. A European championship like that is lacking in heart and soul.
“Once I said to Michel Platini that, when the 2010 World Cup was being awarded, the former ruler ofLibya, Colonel Gaddafi, said to me that each of Africa’s 53 countries would host a match and the final would take place inSouth Africa. He believed in that idea, but I told him it was unthinkable.
“So I also told Platini that there was nothing new about his idea.”
Platini is generally considered favourite to succeed Blatter as president of FIFA in 2015, notwithstanding his controversial support for the World Cup hosting bid of Qatar for 2022.
Platini has revealed he was asked to vote for Qatar by the then President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, at a dinner shortly before the vote at which a guest was also the Emir of Qatar.
Blatter had no problem with this.
He said: “When it comes to campaigning to host a World Cup, each candidate’s government must be firmly behind them. So at the diplomatic level, contact is established with the heads of state, who try to convince the people who have a vote of the merits of their candidacy.
“They are representing their country’s interests and that is only normal.
“For example, there was also contact withGermany, which is a country that does a lot of business with Qatar, for example with companies like Deutsche Bahn, Hochtief and Siemens. As I said, both diplomatic and political aspects play a considerable role in the awarding of a World Cup and the Olympic Games.”
Blatter remained firmly of the opinion that it was up to Qatar to ask FIFA to consider a switch to playing the finals in the winter, as Platini wants.
He said: “The World Cup is held every four years in June or July. If Qatar wishes to organise it differently, then the Qataris will have to speak with FIFA.
“That would not mean the need for a new tender just that a new situation had arisen on which we would have to decide.
“So far, the Qataris have not taken any steps towards requesting a different time period. But they do have until 2016 to do so, which is when the international match calendar is set until 2022.”
As for personal views, Blatter added: “Both Both the FIFA president and the incumbent UEFA president, Michel Platini, must uphold the decision of the executive committee.”
# # # # # # #