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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sarkozy defends Qatar World Cup choice

PARIS — French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday leapt to the defence of the bitterly criticised choice of Qatar as a venue for the 2022 World Cup.
"I saw recently there was a certain fuss over the attribution of upcoming football events. I can't agree with people insisting competitions should continually take place in the same old countries, the same old continents," said Sarkozy as he presented his New Year's wishes to a group of journalists, sports personalities and administrators.
"Sport is a universal thing that in no way belongs to a handful of countries," insisted Sarkozy. "Sport is a global thing, it's Asia, it's Arab countries. And by sport we're going to open the world and going to give it a really universal dimension."
Football's world governing body FIFA came in for sharp criticism from several candidates who were disappointed to have missed out when the 2018 World Cup was awarded to Russia and the 2022 event to Qatar.
Qatar was awarded rights to host the event ahead of the United States in a third round of voting that originally included Japan, Australia and South Korea, a decision decried by some due to sizzling summer temperatures in the Middle East.
Sepp Blatter conversely hailed the choice as a first for the Arab world, and added fuel to the flames of European dissent by saying the tournament could be held in winter, bang in the middle of the European football calendar.
The decision to award Russia the 2018 event, its first, was less of a surprise but England's bid team complained about a lack of transparency in the selection procedure, claiming they had had an excellent bid that had been largely ignored.
France hosted the 1998 World Cup, which it won, and is the venue for the upcoming European championships in 2016.