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World Cup
ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Sepp Blatter told Obama U.S. lost 2022 World Cup bid before vote

FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar in 2010.

Sepp Blatter called United States president Barack Obama before FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar to tell him the U.S. was likely going to lose out, the former FIFA president is quoted as saying in a new book.

Blatter, who has claimed he always pushed for the U.S. to win the 2022 hosting rights, detailed the late change in votes in 2010 that gave the tournament to Qatar in an interview with Bonita Mersiades, a former member of Australia's bid committee.

Mersiades, who has exposed how her country's committee gave bribes to FIFA in an effort to win votes, provided excerpts to the Daily Mail of her new book "Whatever It Takes: The Inside Story of the FIFA Way."

Blatter said that once it became clear to him that the U.S. was not going to win the rights to host in 2022, he and U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati gave Obama a courtesy call days before FIFA's announcement.

"I called President Obama. With Sunil," Blatter said. "We phoned President Obama together the night or two before and I told him, 'It is going to be very difficult for you to win.'

"He understood what had gone on. He thanked me for telling him."

Obama had written to Blatter during the bid process, and the pair met at the White House in 2009.

Blatter said that FIFA's executive committee had planned for Russia to win the 2018 World Cup, with the U.S. to follow in 2022.

He said Russia was "a very competent country, a football country" which had never before hosted, and that 2022 would go to North America 'because it was really CONCACAF's turn."

"And America is very good for us," he said. "The sponsors, the broadcasters, the fans. It would help football there after 1994, almost 30 years, and that is good for football."

Tim Howard sits down with ESPN FC's Jeff Carlisle to discuss the United States' absence from the World Cup, the team's next coach, Jonathan Gonzalez and much more.

But Blatter said that he knew Qatar would win after UEFA president Michel Platini told him that his and other votes in Europe were shifting to Qatar.

"Him, [Cyprus' Marios] Lefkaritis, [Turkey's Senes] Erzik, [Belgium's Michel] D'Hooghe. They all went to Qatar. After the meeting with Sarkozy."

Then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy is under investigation in his country for his part in the bid process. Blatter has previously alleged Sarkozy applied pressure on Platini to change his vote in a meeting also attended by Qatar's crown prince.

In the book excerpt, Blatter also said that after the 2022 vote he agreed not to strip Qatar of the tournament after a handshake deal with Qatari leaders that Mohammed bin Hammam would not run against him in the 2011 FIFA presidential election. Bin Hammam ran anyway but dropped out days before the vote and Blatter was elected unopposed.

Blatter said his rival's recusal occurred as a result of an email he sent to Qatar's heir apparent, Sheikh Jassim Al-Thani -- and not because Bin Hammam had just been suspended by FIFA on ethics charges. Blatter said the Sheikh told him: "Don't worry. We will fix it."

"Everyone thinks he pulled out because of the ethics charges. It was nothing to do with the ethics charges," Blatter said. "It was because he was told to. By Qatar. Because they promised me he would not stand.

"Sheikh Jassim was here in Zurich. We were at a meeting, the three of us. Sheik Jassim told him to withdraw."

Blatter is currently serving a ban from all football-related activity for six years as the result of a "disloyal payment" of 2 million Swiss francs ($1.98m) allegedly made to Platini in 2011.


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