FRANCE FOOTBALL, AFP (France) LE SOIR (Belgium)
PARIS – When Qatar was chosen as the site for soccer's World Cup in 2022, the sports world let out a collective: What?...Where?? But for the more cynical, the real question has always been: How?
According to Paris-based sports weekly France Football, the answer to that last question is: corruption. The French magazine published a 20-page investigation this week delving into the decision two years ago "outside any logic" by FIFA, soccer's international governing board, to award the World Cup to the wealthy Gulf emirate.
"Should we re-vote for the 2022 World Cup?" titles France Football. That Qatar is such a weak soccer country (ranked 106th in the world) was the first reason many observers believed something was not right in its being chosen the 21st host of the World Cup.
But now, the respected French soccer weekly, which many in the sport know for its annual awarding of the Ballon d’or (Golden Ball) for the world's top footballer, is detailing specific allegations for how Qatar essentially paid its way to hosting the event.
Top soccer personalities were allegedly paid large sums to praise the country’s qualities at FIFA conventions -- the magazine says 11 million euros was the price for French soccer legend Zinedine Zidane, and a reportedly hefty check also to FC Barcelona’s coach at the time, Pep Guardiola.
Guido Tognoni, a former FIFA member, qualified the soccer federation “a little mafia.”
“It’s hard to talk about buying votes (per se), but rather the arrangement of votes thanks to agreements and the exchanging of favors,” Tognoni told France Football, according to a rundown of the accusations in the Belgium daily Le Soir.
France Football cites a meal in November 2010 at the French Presidential palace hosted by then French President Nicolas Sarkozy, with Qatari Prince Al Thani and French football legend Michel Platini, who is a key FIFA board member and head of European soccer's governing board. France Football says the Qataris wanted to negotiate for Platini’s vote for the World Cup selection bid in exchange for the creation of a sports satellite TV channel and the purchase of the Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) soccer club.
PSG is now owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, which also runs Bein sports TV network in France. Platini lashed out at the accusations, telling AFP: "I made my choice with complete independence following a simple logic... opening up countries who have never organised major sporting events....With the same concern for transparency, it was me who revealed to the media that a few weeks before the vote I was invited to dinner by Nicolas Sarkozy."