(Reuters) - Awarding the 2022 soccer World Cup to Qatar was a ‘mistake’ and the tournament will probably have to be held in the winter because of the heat, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said.
“Of course, it was a mistake. You know, one comes across a lot of mistakes in life,” he told Swiss television station RTS in an interview.
“The Qatar technical report indicated clearly that it is too hot in summer, but the executive committee with quite a big majority decided all the same that the tournament would be in Qatar,” he added.
Asked whether the World Cup was likely to be held in the European winter, the 78-year-old replied: “It’s probable, yes. In fact, it’s more than probable.”
FIFA later issued a ‘media advisory’ noting that Blatter was in no way questioning whether the tournament would be held in Qatar.
“The comment by the FIFA President concerning the organisation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar to Swiss TV station RTS is in line with previous comments on this matter,” read the statement.
“As explained in his answer to the journalist, the President reiterated that the decision to organise the World Cup in summer 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 2022 FIFA World Cup,” the statement concluded.
FIFA launched an investigation last year into alleged corruption surrounding the voting procedure for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively.
The choice of Qatar was particularly controversial given that the small Arab nation has little footballing culture and summer temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Celsius).
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said in January that the 2022 World Cup would not be played in the summer months but was likely to be held between November and January.
The soccer body has said no decision will be taken until after this year’s World Cup finals in Brazil with all stakeholders and commercial partners to be consulted.
Blatter was adamant oil and gas-rich Qatar had not ‘bought’ the World Cup, however, and indicated political pressure from France and Germany had played a part.
“I will never say they (Qatar) bought it,” he said.
“We know full well that big French and German companies work in Qatar, but they don’t just work for the World Cup. The World Cup is only a small part of what is going on in Qatar.”
Asked about his future at the helm of FIFA, Blatter again indicated he would stand for a fifth term in next year’s election.
“At the moment I say I want to finish my mandate well. Of course I am willing to continue,” he said.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Sudipto Ganguly and Toby Davis