(DailyMail) – FIFA’s ruling Executive Committee of December 2010 was a human smorgasbord of greed, corruption, self-interest and dishonesty and it is nine years now since those 22 men voted to send the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 event to Qatar.
In the weeks before they did so, I spent long days in conversation about their upcoming decision, first with a former Qatari bid insider turned whistleblower, Phaedra Almajid, and then with this newspaper’s lawyers, to decide how much of what she told me we could print.
‘I don’t think Qatar will win,’ a brave but nervous Almajid told me. ‘I KNOW Qatar will win.’
And then, in great detail, she went on to explain how Qatar had bought access to — and influence over — an array of senior sports officials, including not just multiple FIFA ExCo voters but others who might shape the vote, including political figures.
She told me how Qatar had bought the support of multiple famous footballers, paying millions of dollars for the endorsements of, among others, Zinedine Zidane, Gabriel Batistuta and Pep Guardiola, then manager of Barcelona.
There is no implication of any corruption on the part of Zidane, Batistuta, Guardiola or any other footballers who endorsed the bid.
She told me that Spain — bidding for 2018 — would be key to Qatar’s success as part of a secret Qatar-Spain pact (against FIFA bid rules) that would help to deliver Qatar some European ExCo votes but crucially three South American votes from corrupt ExCo voters Ricardo Teixeira (of Brazil), Nicolas Leoz and Julio Grondona (Argentina), all on that infamous 22-man panel.
She also explained how Qatar had paid $1.6m (£1.2m) to sponsor an African football conference, giving Qatar exclusive access to lobby Africa’s ExCo voters and promise them ‘assistance’ in exchange for their votes.
This newspaper ran a story on the Sunday before the Friday vote containing much of the above. We explained how the tiny but super-rich nation of Qatar, a country on the Arabian Peninsula with close to no football heritage, was on the verge of shocking the world to win the right to 2022. And so it came to pass.
Nine years on and we know for sure that a majority of those 22 men were indeed corrupt, in myriad, colourful fashion. There have been legal probes into the vote, including in Switzerland (ongoing), a FIFA probe (the Garcia Report) and a US Department of Justice prosecution of football fraudsters and racketeers implicating a group of the 2010 ExCo members.
FIFA recently published a document justifying a lifetime ban for Teixeira for corruption that cited third-party testimony about Teixeira, Leoz and Grondona taking bribes from Qatar to vote for 2022 as corroboratory evidence that Teixeira was a wrong ‘un.
And yet Qatar 2022 will go ahead. FIFA never bothered to ask the 22 exactly what they saw in Qatar, the richest per capita nation on the planet. They don’t think it might send the wrong message.
Because, at the end of the day, it’s just football business, 21st-century style.