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Blatter hits back in Qatar row

23 November 2013, 09:45

Rome - FIFA boss Sepp Blatter on Friday hit back at criticism over work conditions on World Cup venues in Qatar, accusing European companies and saying France and Germany pushed the bid for "economic interests".

In a report this week, Amnesty International said migrant workers were being treated like "animals" and urged FIFA to press Qatar to improve the conditions of foreign labourers, most of them from South Asia.

However Blatter said the blame lay squarely with the European companies operating in the Gulf State.

"The big companies working there are European companies, most of them. The constructor is responsible for the workers," Blatter told reporters in Rome, adding that FIFA "deplored" the situation in Qatar.

"The Europeans are unhappy but it was pressure from European countries that brought this World Cup to Qatar because there were so many economic interests," he said.

"Two of these countries that made pressure are France and Germany... European politicians and heads of state of these countries should say what they think of the situation. It can't all be on FIFA," he added.

The Gulf emirate, which rejects claims of slavery-style conditions in what is one of the world's wealthiest nations per capita, said it would include the findings in an inquiry it has already launched.

Following Amnesty's report, FIFA has already called for Qatar to take concrete steps by March to resolve the issue and Blatter called the situation "unacceptable".

Blatter, meanwhile, reiterated his desire to hold the 2022 edition at the end of the calendar year. The FIFA boss has already rejected the traditional June-July period because of Qatar's searing desert heat.

"We are now consulting the stakeholders - teams, players, leagues, federations - about the international calendar, also media and marketing, to look if it's possible to play at the end of the year, in November-December," Blatter said.

"I think it's advisable to play at the end of the year."

Looking ahead to next year's tournament in Brazil, Blatter said matches with midday kick-off times may be moved to later in the day to avoid intense heat and humidity.

He said the issue would be raised at next month's FIFA executive committee meeting in Salvador, Brazil.

The kick-off times "have been established but not sanctioned," he said. "It's a very important matter."



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