UEFA boss denies Sarkozy deal on Qatar 2022
04 December 2013, 16:43
Madrid - UEFA chief Michel Platini denied Wednesday that he had made a deal over dinner with then French president Nicolas Sarkozy to support Qatar's bid to host the 2022 World Cup.
But Platini, the French head of the ruling body for European football, said Sarkozy's wishes were clear.
In an interview published in Spanish sports daily AS, Platini said he was invited to dinner at the French president's Elysee Palace in Paris ahead of a December 2, 2010 FIFA vote in which Qatar was chosen to organise the 2022 World Cup.
"I received a call from the president of the Republic of France, which is my country as everyone knows," Platini said.
"When I arrived I met the emir of Qatar and the prime minister of the emirate. No-one had told me of their presence.
"We dined together but just as I say that no-one told me the Qataris were going to be there, I state emphatically that president Sarkozy did not ask me to vote for Qatar as host of the 2022 World Cup before, during or after that meeting."
Nevertheless, Platini said he understood what the French president wanted.
"I could understand for myself that Sarkozy was interested in Qatar organising the World Cup. But he did not make that request to me," Platini said.
The UEFA boss said the decision in favour of Qatar could not now be changed, despite criticism of the choice, notably because of the scorching summer heat.
Asked what chance there was of a change of country for the 2022 World Cup, he replied: "None."
"Perhaps we can change the month but not the country."
Platini said FIFA and UEFA agreed that playing the World Cup in summer in Qatar was "not ideal".
"But it has to be Qatar that takes the decision. In any case, FIFA has decided not to get involved in the matter until after the World Cup in Brazil."
Tiny, resource-rich Qatar has proved a contentious choice since being awarded World Cup hosting rights following a bidding process tainted with corruption allegations.
Following strong and lengthy protests, FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, who has passionately defended the Gulf nation's right to host the global extravaganza, has agreed to move the World Cup to the end of 2022 to avoid Qatar's summer.
Rights groups called for a boycott of the World Cup over an Amnesty report that foreign workers suffer exploitation, including non-payment of wages and hazardous conditions.
French-Algerian footballer Zahir Belounis says he was forced to remain in Qatar for 17 months because his employers the Al-Jaish club, whose chairman is Sheikh Joaan bin Khalifa bin Ahmad al-Thani, brother of the emir, refused him an exit permit.
Belounis is suing Al-Thani in a Paris court.
Blatter has called conditions for migrant workers "unacceptable". However, Qatar said the allegations were "exaggerated".