Blatter reaches out to Arabia

Fifa president says Middle East 'deserves' World Cup in boost to Qatar 2022 bid.

    Blatter greets Qatar's Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Doha [EPA]

    Sepp Blatter said he would consider his future as president of football's world governing body Fifa after assessing the success of "his" World Cup in South Africa – and gave a strong indication that he would like to endow the Middle East with a first World Cup of its own.

    Blatter said he had fulfilled a decades-long dream in bringing football's top tournament to the African continent this summer.

    And speaking in the Qatari capital, Doha, on Saturday, he said the Middle East "deserved" to see the Arabian Gulf state succeed in its bid for the 2022 finals.

    The Swiss said he would take a sojourn in Greenland after South Africa 2010 ends in July to reflect on the tournament and whether to stand for another term as Fifa boss next year.

    And while visions of a World Cup in Greenland may briefly inhabit the ambitious 74-year-old's daydreams near the Arctic Circle, he will certainly imagine a legacy of bringing the finals to virgin territory twice during his premiership.

    "To bring the World Cup to Africa was a project I had in mind 35 years ago, when in February 1976 I undertook a technical course in Addis Ababa," he said.

    "The Arabic world deserves a World Cup. They have 22 countries and have not had any opportunity to organise the tournament.

    "When I was first in Qatar there were 400,000 people here and now there are 1.6 million. In terms of infrastructure, when you are able to organise the Asian Games (in 2006) with more than 30 events for men and women, then that is not in question."

    Presidential challenge

    Blatter was attending a cup final in honour of Qatar's Heir Apparent, or crown prince, and was due to meet Asian football chief Mohammad Bin Hammam – a potential challenger to his position in presidential elections next year and with whom he has had a mixed relationship.

    The Swiss said the relations were now good but that he would not necessarily be staying on in the post he has held since 1998.

    "The president of the Qatar Football Association has assured me that they will qualify for the 2014 World Cup – and I believe him"

    Sepp Blatter, Fifa president

    "I have said, let's wait for the World Cup because it is 'my' World Cup and there are many eyes in the European media looking at me to see how this tournament will be delivered," he said.

    "Afterwards I will take three weeks in Grönland (Greenland), which if you can believe it has it's own football league. With four hours of daylight a day."

    Qatar will find out in December whether their bid – backed by the considerable wealth of the oil-and-gas rich state and the desire for the tournament in the Middle East – has been a success, before they host the Asian Cup in January 2011.

    The relative poverty of Qatar's national team, at 97 in the Fifa rankings, has been touted as one reason the country should not host it but Blatter said the issue was irrelevant.

    "The performance of the national team has practically no influence on the decision of the Fifa executive committee," he said.

    "But the president of the Qatar Football Association has assured me that they will qualify for the 2014 World Cup – and I believe him."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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