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No Qatar re-vote says FIFA official D’Hooghe ‘British criticism is partly sour grapes’

LONDON, April 1, (AFP): Michel D’Hooghe, FIFA’s medical officer, has insisted there will be no re-vote on the controversial decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup finals. “There will be absolutely no re-vote,” D’Hooghe told the London Evening Standard on Tuesday, a day after Japan said it was ready to step in if FIFA stripped Qatar of staging the 2022 World Cup. “Some in the English press want that (a re-vote). But it’s not the English press that decide.” D’Hooghe was one of the FIFA executive committee members who in 2010 awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 edition to Qatar. Both decisions caused uproar and led to widespread allegations regarding the bidding process, which are now being investigated by FIFA ethics chief Michael Garcia.

The move to give the World Cup to Qatar, a country with little football history, provoked widespread condemnation particularly over health concerns for leading players forced to play in the desert nation’s stifling summer heat. Such was the backlash football chiefs are now considering moving the tournament to the European winter for the first time. There was a particularly bitter reaction to the whole process in England, the birthplace of modern-day football, after the country’s bid to stage the 2018 finals garnered a mere two votes and was eliminated in the first ballot.

But Belgium’s D’Hooghe, asked if corruption had played a part in either vote, told the Standard: “Absolutely not. I had no feeling anything was going on then and I still have no feeling that there was corruption during this vote.” D’Hooghe, who led the unsuccessful joint Belgium/Holland bid for 2018, added that many within FIFA felt continued British criticism of the bid process was “partly sour grapes” over the rejection of England’s 2018 offer and that no matter how much football’s world governing body reformed its structure, it would never satisfy some of its harshest critics.

“But, for the British press, whatever we do is never enough. And the feeling in FIFA is that all this British criticism is partly sour grapes. “In football you win and you lose. If England feel they have not had a World Cup since 1966, then Belgium has never had the World Cup. England must not complain. They just had the Olympics and organised it fantastically.” Meanwhile D’Hooghe remained adamant the 2022 World Cup cannot be played in the heat of a Qatari summer, a point the technical inspectors who examined the original bid had long flagged up as a potential problem. “In my capacity as chairman of the medical committee, I said the same — that in Qatar, we have to avoid the warmest period of the year. “That essentially means June, July and August. I have never changed my opinion from the very beginning.”

D’Hooghe added he’d met with Garcia, an American lawyer, and said he should proceed with his investigations despite the misgivings of some FIFA members. “It was only after the (executive committee) meeting that I heard that some people were not prepared to accept Garcia,” he said. “It is very clear. We, the executive committee, had proposed to congress to establish an ethical committee and I would not consider taking that responsibility away from Mr Garcia. “This guy takes his work very seriously. I am very impressed with him and really support him.” “Mr Garcia plans to interview all the FIFA executive committee who participated in the vote and are still on the executive. “I had a very good talk with him and a chance to tell him what I knew of the elections. I had, of course, nothing to hide.”
 

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