FIFA presidential candidate Jerome Champagne says the decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup has left a stain on the global showpiece.
Football’s world governing body has been under intense scrutiny since its decision five years ago to name the Gulf nation as the host for the tournament, with the majority of the Executive Committee members who made the decision having been either accused of corruption, suspended, arrested or even banned from football.
Champagne – who hopes to gain enough votes to replace outgoing president Sepp Blatter on February 26 – says the World Cup plays an important role across the globe, and he is worried the investigations could damage its ability to unite people.
“There’s definitely a stain on the World Cup,” he told Omnisport. “When you see what has happened in the past weeks and months, more than ever we need football, more than ever we need to love the values of the game, more than ever we need the World Cup.
“In a world that’s so unfair, unequal, which separates people between passports, social classes, religions, colours of skins, gender, whatever sexual orientation, what do we have in common?
“Every four years we have this kind of worldly communion where a Brit and a Bolivian and a Canadian and a Vietnamese who have nothing in common, suddenly have something in common, this passion around the game.
“So I don’t like the World Cup to be stained and that is my problem. And five years after this decision the Word Cup is still stained.”
However, Champagne – who is against the idea to increase the competition from 32 to 40 nations – does not believe Qatar should be stripped of the 2022 edition.
He added: “[Firstly] I personally consider it’s quite good to take the World Cup to an Arab county and to a Muslim country, not for political reasons, not for religious reasons.
“But I think Arab football brought a lot to world football.
“The second element, I know there are investigations taking place, but once again the principle of innocent until proven guilty should not only benefit everyone, the individuals but the country in that case, Qatar, as well.”