Hosting the upcoming World Cup in Qatar was a 'mistake' according to former FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, in extraordinary remarks just weeks from the tournament getting underway.
Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup in a 2010 vote that went ahead 14-8 in favour Qatar over the United States - but Blatter's role in that memorably came under scrutiny in the years since.
The hosting rights for the 2022 tournament have long been subject to accusations of corruption, with Blatter forced to step down from FIFA in 2015 over a payment of two million Swiss francs to then-UEFA president Michael Platini in the lead-up to the vote.
Blatter has since claimed that the vote was swung in Qatar's favour thanks to Platini, who Blatter says was influenced by former French president Nicolas Sarkozy to do so.
In charge of FIFA for some 17 years, Blatter left the organisation in disgrace after the payment to Platini was made public. Violations of FIFA's code of ethics later saw Blatter banned from football until 2028, while both men were found not guilty of fraud in a Swiss court.
The circumstances surrounding the vote have long been associated with suspicion around Qatar winning the rights to host the Cup in 2022, particularly given long-standing human rights concerns associated with the Middle Eastern nation.
In an interview with German press, Blatter argued Qatar was 'too small' to host the tournament, being the smallest nation to do so since Switzerland in 1954.
“It’s a country that’s too small. Football and the World Cup are too big for that," Blatter said.
“It was a bad choice. And I was responsible for that as president at the time."
Incredibly, Blatter put the involvement of Sarkozy down to a looming defence deal between France and Qatar.
“But of course it was also about money. Six months later, Qatar bought fighter jets from the French for $14.6 billion," he alleged.
Sepp Blatter comments on World Cup furore after Socceroos' stand
The Socceroos have released a politically charged statement ahead of the Qatar World Cup calling for the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships in the Middle Eastern country.
The collective message from Australia's national team also demands improvement in worker rights in Qatar, labelling reforms in the World Cup host country as inconsistent.
Some 16 Socceroos players have released a collective video message expressing concern over human rights in Qatar, which will become the first Middle Eastern country to host the sport's showpiece tournament when the World Cup kicks off on November 20.
Same-sex relationships are banned in Qatar, while numerous migrant workers have died in the building of infrastructure for the high-profile tournament.
The Socceroos' message, backed by a statement from Football Australia, note Qatar's government has implemented reforms to the rights of workers.
"Whilst the reforms established in Qatar are an important and welcome step, their implementation remains inconsistent and requires improvement," the players say in their statement.
"We have learnt the decision to host the World Cup in Qatar has resulted in suffering and in the harm of countless of our fellow workers.
"These migrant workers who have suffered are not just numbers.
"Like the migrants that have shaped our country and our football, they possess the same courage and determination to build a better life."
The Socceroos players, including captain Mat Ryan, deliver a line-by-line statement in the video which also expresses concern for LGBTQI rights in Qatar.
"As players we fully support the rights of the LGBTI+ people," the players said.
"But in Qatar people are not free to love the person that they choose. Addressing these issues is not easy and we do not have all the answers."
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