2014 World Cup news

Qatar 'one of sport's biggest mistakes'

November 28, 2013
By Stephan Uersfeld, Germany Correspondent

Former German Football Association (DFB) president Theo Zwanziger has said awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar is "one of the biggest mistakes ever in the history of sport."

Zwanziger, a FIFA executive board member, has been one of Qatar’s and FIFA’s biggest critics in Germany. In October, he challenged Wolfgang Niersbach, his successor at the DFB, when urging the association to make its opinions clear regarding the ongoing debate over the 2022 World Cup.

“In important questions regarding sports politics, I would wish for the DFB to weigh in,” he said.

Zwanziger later teamed up with Niersbach and a German union leader in an effort to better the working conditions for the workers on the World Cup construction sites.

Speaking on Tuesday, Zwanziger renewed his criticism of Qatar. “I could never understand this decision [to award the World Cup to Qatar]. That is one of the biggest mistakes ever in the history of sport,” he said.

“We need to pressure them now, so that those responsible for the employees are monitored more closely."

Meanwhile, German media have questioned Pep Guardiola’s way of handling the open letter sent to him by Zahir Belounis, who was stranded in Qatar after not being granted an exit visa by the government.

Belounis had sent an open letter to the Bayern coach and Real Madrid's Zinedine Zidane, bringing his plight into the public eye. He has since been granted the exit visa and is expected back in France on Friday, his brother announced this week.

On Tuesday, the German broadsheet Sueddeutsche Zeitung bemoaned that Guardiola opted to track down the club's 'mole' rather than to comment on the open letter.

An editorial in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Wednesday called the silence of Zidane, Guardiola and UEFA president Michel Platini on the Belounis case a “declaration of bankruptcy for the overhyped football branch with its allegedly so important figures.”

The newspaper added: “Some of the biggest stars in football also remained silent, whereas actual solidarity had been expected of them. Zinedine Zidane has the same Algerian roots as Belounis.

"But evidently for the French football hero as well as for Munich’s world famous coach Pep Guardiola the multi-million deals as World Cup ambassadors for Qatar weighed more. If it was cowardly or calculating -- that’s just not enough for football heroes.”

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