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FOOTBALL

Blatter admits Qatar World Cup a ‘mistake’

Sepp Blatter, president of Zurich-based FIFA, on Thursday said it was a mistake to choose Qatar in the Middle East to host the 2022 World Cup football competition because of the country's searing summertime climate.

Blatter admits Qatar World Cup a 'mistake'
Photo: Marcello Casal Jr.

When asked if it was a mistake choosing as host Qatar because of the country's high temperatures in summer months, Blatter said in an interview with Swiss broadcaster RTS: "Yes, of course."
   
"You know, everyone makes mistakes in life," he added.

The average temperature tops 40 degrees in June and July when World Cup finals usually take place.
   
"The Qatar technical report ruled that it was too hot in the summer, but the (FIFA's) executive committee, with a large majority, decided to play in Qatar," said Blatter.
   
In these circumstances, "it is more than likely" that the 2022 World Cup will be played in winter, said Blatter, who has repeatedly expressed his desire to move the tournament to a more appropriate date.
   
Temperatures in the winter in Qatar are around 25 degrees.
   
"The best time to play is at the end of the year," Blatter said.

"You must remain realistic . . . we must play in winter at the end of the year."

 Following Blatter's comments, FIFA issued a statement saying that they were fully in line with previous statements on the 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," the statement said.
   
"At no stage did he question Qatar as the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup."
   
Blatter's comments accord with the position taken by his number two, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, who said in January that the 2022 World Cup should be held ideally between November 15th and January 15th.
   
A decision on whether the tournament will be moved from summer to the winter in eight years' time has been postponed by FIFA until after next month's World Cup finals in Brazil.
   
FIFA took the controversial decision to award Qatar the World Cup in December 2010, handing the organization of the biggest sports event in the world to the tiny Gulf emirate that has become a power in world sport on the back of its immense wealth based on natural gas deposits.
   
Since then the decision has been dogged by controversies over the validity of the vote, the treatment of foreign workers employed on World Cup infrastructure projects, as well as the date of the tournament.
   
Blatter insisted however that Qatar had not "bought" the World Cup — the bid did spend large amounts of money on sponsorship and development programmes.
   
"No, I have never said it was bought," he said, but admitted to "political pressures" coming notably from France and Germany, both of whom, he said, had economic interests in the Gulf region.
   
"We know perfectly well that big French companies and big German companies have interests in Qatar," he said.

"But they are not only involved in the World Cup."

Blatter, 78, also said in the interview that he did not expect UEFA chief Michel Platini to stand against him next year when the Swiss hopes to ensure a fifth term as FIFA president.
   
"You will have to ask him that question, but I don't think so, surely not," he said.

"He will not do that."
 

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FOOTBALL

‘Overwhelmed’: Unaware Swiss super fan stunned about viral fame

A Swiss super fan who has shot to fame after images of him watching Switzerland’s win over France went viral told the media he was unaware of his viral fame - but that he was overwhelmed with the world’s attention.

‘Overwhelmed’: Unaware Swiss super fan stunned about viral fame
Image: Twitter.

Like most Swiss football fans, Luca Loutenbach’s Monday evening – highlighted by a surprise upset win over the current World Champions and tournament favourite France – went about as well as you could have expected. 

But while his side were putting on the pressure through late goals to push the game into extra time, Loutenbach’s image was being shared across the world. 

Two pictures of Loutenbach, juxtaposed from before and after Switzerland scored an equaliser in the 90th minute to send the game to extra time, were widely shared. 

The images were even shared by Sadiq Kahn, the mayor of London, who congratulated Switzerland and said the images summed up the beauty of football. 

On Tuesday, Loutenbach spoke with Swiss tabloid Blick to tell the story. He said he had no idea about the images as his phone had no reception in Romania – and only found out after the game. 

“I didn’t have a network during the game. But some fans around me were connected to the internet and quickly realized what was happening. What an incredible buzz!” said the man from the canton of Jura. 

While Switzerland have made it further than they have in their history in the tournament, Loutenbach is far from a bandwagon fan. He told Blick he’s seen around 50 national team games before. 

“It’s the most beautiful day in the history of Swiss football, let’s not be afraid of saying it. It is the accomplishment of the immense work of the ASF (Federation), of (coach) Petkovic and of the whole team” he said. 

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