Former French soccer star Zinedine Zidane insists he supported Qatar's successful 2022 World Cup bid to advance soccer in the Middle East and not for financial gain.
Zidane addressed a prolonged controversy over Qatar's success that is fueled by a power struggle within FIFA, soccer's world body, telling French sports daily L'Equipe that he donated remuneration for his support of Qatar to his charity that, among other things, supports the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
"After studying Qatar's project, I wanted to do it and I will tell you why. But first of all I want to touch upon something: money," L'Equipe quoted Zidane, who starred for Real Madrid and also guided France to Euro 2000 victory during his playing career, as saying.
"10, 11, 12, 13 million euros was mentioned. I will say it clearly: That's a load of rubbish. It wasn't even a third of these sums," Zidane said.
Documents reviewed by the Wall Street Journal said Zidane had been paid $1 million by Qatar for his support of the Gulf State's World Cup bid.
"It is a lot of money. But this money is distributed by the Zidane Foundation," Zidane said.
"I didn't do it for money. When I stopped playing football (in 2006), Qatar approached me and wanted me to play there. (I was offered) a blank check, I could have written whatever sum I wanted. (But) I didn't want to go and play in Qatar," Zidane added
Beyond Zidane, Qatar secured support for its bid from Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, former Netherlands defender Ronald de Boer and Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola.
"Why shouldn't they have the right to organize a World Cup?" Zidane said.
Zidane made his remarks two days after FIFA President Sepp Blatter conceded for the first time that Qatar, Spain and Portugal colluded to trade votes for their respective 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids, and 24 hours after Asian Football Confederation (AFC) chief Mohammed Bin Hammam gave his clearest indication yet that he would challenge Blatter in FIFA presidential elections scheduled for June.
James M. Dorsey authors "The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer" blog.