Qatar hailed Fifa's decision as a victory over misconceptions about the country's bid [AFP] 

Barack Obama, the US president, has said that Fifa, the world governing football body erred  in awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar instead of his country.

"I think it was the wrong decision," Obama told reporters at the White House on Thursday. 

 

He said he remained optimistic that the US team would make it to the finals.

Fifa selected Qatar over bids from the US, Japan, South Korea and Australia to play host for the games in 2022.

Russia won the right to stage the 2018 World Cup.

The US Football Federation spent millions of dollars on its bid. Bill Clinton, the former US president, was highly involved in the process and participated in the closing presentation.

Those pushing the US bid had hoped that bringing the World Cup back to the country for the first time since 1994 would boost the slow but steady growth of football in America.

Qatar hailed Thursday's decision as a victory over misconceptions about the country's bid.

The Gulf state was initially seen as an outsider, regarded by many as too small and hot to stage the tournament.

It will now become the smallest country to host the World Cup after convincing Fifa that its plans to build carbon-neutral air-conditioned stadiums to combat the searing summer heat are viable.

Thanking Fifa for their "bold vision", Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad al-Thani, the bid committee chairman, said: "We started off being written off, the unconventional bid, the bid that nobody saw coming, that nobody thought had a chance to win".

"As you can recall, there were several tournaments with similar climates to Qatar but because of the misconceptions, it was difficult to combat those, to prove ourselves on the world stage.

"One of the most important was Qatar cannot do it because Qatar is too hot. It's very important to have faith as Fifa did when they went to South Africa in 2010 and it's important to get beyond these perceptions."

Qatari triumph

Sheikh Mohammed said that another misconception was that women in the Middle East were not allowed to play football, adding that Qatar was setting up a professional women's championship.

 Qatar was initially seen as an outsider, regarded as too small and hot to stage the World Cup tournament

"The perception that women are oppressed is another wrong perception," he said.

"We will deliver with passion and make sure this is a milestone in the history of the Middle East and a milestone for Fifa."

Sheikh Mohammed said Fifa's decision was "a statement of trust, of loyalty to the game".

"On behalf of millions of people in the Middle East, thank you for believing in us, thank you for having such bold vision. I can promise we will not let you down," he said.

"Most importantly [for the people of the Middle East], rather than watching a World Cup overseas across thousands of miles, it's finally at their door ... finally being recognised by Fifa as an integral part of the footballing world.

"To Fifa, thank you for acknowledging this is the right time for the Middle East, we have a date with history," he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies