In rare moment of diplomatic honesty, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has confessed that the selection of Qatar as host of 2022 World Cup was a "mistake." In a Swiss television interview on Friday, Blatter was asked if FIFA was wrong to hold the biggest soccer tournament in the world in one of the hottest deserts on Earth in the middle of the summer. "Of course, it was a mistake," Blatter responded, adding, "You know, one makes a lot of mistakes in life."
The World Cup, of course, is a month-long summer tournament for a sport that is traditionally played outdoors. Qatar, being on the Arabian Peninsula, is extremely hot during that time of the year: Temperatures often reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the day in June and July. That is not ideal weather for playing soccer, which means that Qatar had to promise to build air conditioned stadiums and a transport system to let players and spectators arrive at the venues without melting.
It's such a concern that people are talking about moving the tournament to the winter months, but that would require interrupting the regular season schedules of the world's biggest soccer leagues.
Blatter said that the decision to give Qatar the tournament in the face of those concerns came down to "political" considerations, but he denies accusations that the World Cup was "bought." He added:
The technical report indicated clearly that it was too hot in summer, but despite that the executive committee decided with quite a big majority that the tournament would be in Qatar.
FIFA then provided a clarification on Blatter's remarks. Here's their 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.
FIFA has also faced criticism for something not addressed by Blatter today: the dangerous working conditions of Qatar's mostly migrant workforce, including those working on the stadiums for the tournament.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.