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Sepp Blatter 'did not question Qatar' as World Cup host, says FIFA

May 16, 2014 -- Updated 2046 GMT (0446 HKT)
FIFA president Sepp Blatter says it was a mistake to award Qatar a summer tournament.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter says it was a mistake to award Qatar a summer tournament.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • FIFA denies Sepp Blatter said Qatar unfit to hold World Cup
  • Blatter said it was a 'mistake' to organize summer tournament in Gulf State
  • FIFA president made comments in interview with Swiss media

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(CNN) -- FIFA has moved quickly to deny claims its president, Sepp Blatter, suggested Qatar is unfit to host the 2022 World Cup -- despite his admission that it was "a mistake" to schedule a summer tournament in the Gulf State.

Blatter, who oversees the game's global governing body, appeared to cast doubt over Qatar's right to welcome the football world, following an interview with a Swiss television station Friday.

When asked by RTS if it was an error to award Qatar the World Cup, Blatter said: "Of course, it was a mistake. You know, one makes a lot of mistakes in life.

FIFA has been plagued by a series of problems and controversies since Qatar was awarded the right to stage the 2022 World Cup. FIFA has been plagued by a series of problems and controversies since Qatar was awarded the right to stage the 2022 World Cup.
2022 controversy continues
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FIFA president Sepp Blatter's 2011 remarks on racism in football -- that on-pitch abuse can be solved with a handshake -- were just one of a series of controversial quotes to be attributed to the head of world soccer. FIFA president Sepp Blatter's 2011 remarks on racism in football -- that on-pitch abuse can be solved with a handshake -- were just one of a series of controversial quotes to be attributed to the head of world soccer.
A controversial leader
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"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."

In October 2013, Blatter set up an executive committee taskforce to examine whether the World Cup in Qatar should be switched to winter because of extreme summer temperatures.

A decision is expected to be made following the conclusion of the upcoming World Cup in Brazil.

Blatter's comments sparked a frenzy on social media and led to criticism of the 78-year-old and the organization's decision to award the tournament to Qatar.

But speaking to CNN, a FIFA spokesman said: "The comment by the FIFA President concerning the organization of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar to Swiss TV station RTS is in line with previous comments on this matter.

" As explained in his answer to the journalist, the president reiterated that the decision to organize 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."

Harold Mayne-Nicholls led the FIFA inspection team which examined each of the bidding countries for the 2022 World Cup before delivering his report in October 2010.

Mayne-Nicholls concluded that Qatar was a high-risk option because of its soaring temperatures -- but it was still chosen by 14 of the 22 executive committee members in the final round of voting in December that year.

"In June and July you cannot play," Mayne-Nicholls told CNN last November when asked about the conditions in Qatar.

"It's not for the players. The players will be OK with the cooling system but what about the fans?

"You'll have 50,000 fans walking three, four, even six blocks or more like in South Africa where I walked 10 blocks.

"They will be walking in 40 degrees and it's too much. One or two crucial cases will damage the entire image of the World Cup and we must be careful."

If the World Cup was to be held between November and January, it would probably create a logistical headache for many major European leagues -- such as the English Premier League -- and for the prestigious Champions League, organized by the continent's UEFA confederation.

American broadcaster Fox, which paid $425 million for the rights to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, has expressed concern that a "winter" World Cup could clash with the National Football League's regular season and the Super Bowl.

The decision to award Qatar football's showpiece event has drawn widespread condemnation and focused attention on workers' rights in the state.

A report released by Amnesty International last November alleged that the abuse of migrant workers was rife within Qatar's construction sector, while British newspaper The Guardian likened the conditions for such workers to "modern-day slavery."

The furor which surrounded "stranded" footballer Zahir Belounis also raised questions regarding Qatar's Kafala law.

Blatter himself described the conditions for migrant workers in Qatar as "unacceptable," but has so far refused to entertain the idea of moving the 2022 competition to another location.

In response to Amnesty's allegations, the director of the Human Rights Department at Qatar's Foreign Ministry said laws are in place to protect workers from mistreatment.

Read: Blatter says 'Qatar working conditions unacceptable'

Read: Qatar set deadline by FIFA

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