Paris: FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke on Monday defended the world body’s “political” decisions to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 event to Qatar.
“It’s a political decision to open up onto the world. It was the same thing with (2010) hosts South Africa,” said Valcke.
“We have eight years till Russia hosts it with a huge commitment on the part of (Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin and 12 for Qatar, who have huge resources,” said Valcke in response to questions as to the technical merits of the two countries, which FIFA did not find to be on the same level as, for example, those of 2018 candidate England.
England’s bid campaigners have expressed astonishment at being eliminated in the first round in Zurich last week with just two of 22 FIFA executive committee votes.
If the poor English performance and Russia’s elevation to host city for 2018 surprised some, there was also astonishment in many quarters at Qatar’s selection for 2022 given that the tiny country is predominantly desert and will be boiling hot in June and July.
Valcke admitted that “as regards the heat in Qatar, the fears are legitimate but there will be air conditioning systems. Qatar will do everything necessary so that nothing is to the detriment of either the players or anyone else.
“Russia deserves it and Qatar will be an interesting story. The Middle East is part of the football family,” indicated Valcke.
Regarding allegations of corruption at the heart of FIFA Valcke said the game’s governing body had “reacted immediately” to the Sunday Times revelations by suspending two members of its executive committee amid allegations of bribery.
Valcke stressed that the BBC investigation - which was broadcast just days before the vote - into another three committee members was “reheated stuff which belongs on the history channel.
“Legally, the matter is closed,” he said, alluding to a previous Swiss legal investigation a decade ago.
Regarding English complaints that the voting system aids collusion and secrecy Valcke insisted: “It is normal for there to be a secret ballot. If there is to be a reform of the voting system then it will be for the executive committee to decide.”
He added that FIFA “has nothing to blush about.”
Turning to the next World Cup in Brazil in 2014, Valcke noted that the new Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was fully behind the project after succeeding Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
He did, however, admit to concerns on progress on stadium construction.
“But a stadium is a matter of 24 months. You have to push - and we are used to that from (our experience with) South Africa.”