Seven candidates have formally entered the race to lead the scandal-ridden world football body.
Sepp Blatter has claimed there was a deal to give Russia the 2018 World Cup before voting took place, and blamed “bad losers” England and the US for the corruption scandal engulfing the organisation.
“In 2010, we [FIFA’s 22-strong executive committee] had taken a double decision, we were agreed to go to Russia [in 2018], then in 2022 we’d return to the United States,” the outgoing FIFA president told Russian news agency TASS on Wednesday.
If the US had won the right to host the 2022 World Cup, “all we’d be talking about now would be the marvellous 2018 World Cup in Russia and not about any problem at FIFA,” he said.
Blatter’s comments prompted the head of the English Football Association (FA) Greg Dyke to say he would look into recouping around $32.2m spent on England’s failed 2018 bid.
Dyke said investigating the claims was a “good idea” as it would be “very nice to get taxpayers’ money back”.
‘I want to see his face’
The head of the FA predicted that Qatar would be stripped from hosting the 2022 tournament when Swiss investigators would complete their probe into the bidding process for the event.
Hitting back in an interview with Al Jazeera, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah responded: “I want to see his face when we host the 2022.”
“We deserve to have a 2022 World Cup in Qatar, an Arabic state…an Islamic country. The Arabic region needs such a tournament for the youth of the Arab region and I think we deserve to have one,” the foreign minister told the host of Al Jazeera’s UpFront, Mehdi Hasan.
Attiyah also said that workers’ rights “were improving” in Qatar, responding to sustained criticism of the nation’s treatment of labourers who are building the infrastructe and stadiums in the Gulf nation .(The full interview will be aired at 19:30 GMT on Friday).
In further revelations, Blatter hit out at UEFA president Michel Platini and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, saying they skewered the 2022 plan by cosying up to eventual hosts Qatar.
Everything changed, he added, “after talks between Sarkozy and Qatar’s prince [Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani] who is now running the emirate” – a meeting followed by lunch between the two men and Platini.
As a result of that Franco-Qatari summit, at FIFA’s secret ballot in December 2010 “four European votes deserted the United States and the result was 14-8 [to Qatar]”, he said.
Blatter accused Platini of being the original cause of the crisis at the top of football.
“Platini wanted to be FIFA president, but he didn’t have the courage to put himself forward,” he said, referring to the May 29 election in which Blatter saw off Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein for his fifth term in office.
“And now look where we are. And the victim of all this at the end of the day is Platini himself,” said the 79-year-old Swiss.
Platini is currently suspended from all football-related activities for 90 days while he is investigated over a clandestine $2m payment he received from Blatter on behalf of FIFA in 2011 for consultancy work carried out years before.
Platini had been seen as a strong favourite to take over when Blatter announced in June he was standing down.
FIFA’s Electoral Committee confirmed on Wednesday it had seven candidates running to be the new president in a February 26 election, including the Frenchman.
FIFA said the applications from the six others would be processed, but Platini’s case would only be considered once his ban is lifted.
But the Frenchman was defiant, telling Swiss daily Le Matin: “In all modesty, I am the best-placed to lead world football.”
In the interview published on Thursday he blasted his suspension and the negative effect on his chances, and was adamant he would be cleared.
The other candidates are Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, Musa Bility, Jerome Champagne, Gianni Infantino, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa and Tokyo Sexwale.