Asia's top sports official Friday vowed to fight to the end keep the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and blamed media "racism" for criticism which has raised doubts over the event.
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), told AFP that Asia was united behind Qatar as FIFA studies a probe into the bidding process.
“I think Qatar got it fairly, with the procedures of FIFA, and we won’t take the World Cup from Qatar because of some negative media opinion,” the Kuwaiti said in an interview.
“We will resist until the end and we will fight for the right of Qatar until the end because we think it’s related more to racism than reality.
“I think it’s more racism than reality… the majority (of racism is from) the media.”
World body FIFA is evaluating a report into the votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments compiled by former US federal prosecutor Michael Garcia, who has called for it to be made public.
The year-long investigation involved interviewing more than 75 witnesses and compiling a dossier that includes more than 200,000 pages and audio interviews.
Garcia had access to documents also reported in British media which claim widespread bribery orchestrated by Asia’s ex-football chief, Qatari businessman Mohammed bin Hammam.
Criticism of Qatar’s hosting has met with a strong response by Asian officials and as well as FIFA chief Sepp Blatter, who has also rounded on European media.
The sheikh, speaking at the Asian Games in Incheon, said it was “reasonable” to hold Qatar’s World Cup in winter rather than summer, to avoid extreme temperatures in the Gulf state.
But he maintained there were no grounds for stripping Qatar of the World Cup or holding a new election to decide the host country.
“You have to be patient and strong. And we will fight. And we will resist for the right of Qatar and our region,” he said.
He emphasised that it would be the first time for the World Cup to be in the Middle East. “And we will not be surrounded by some other things. If there is some negative case for a person, that doesn’t mean the country.”
Tiny, oil-rich Qatar’s hosting has provoked impassioned debate. Last month, FIFA executive committee member Theo Zwanziger told a German newspaper that “the 2022 World Cup will not take place in Qatar”.
But Sheikh Ahmad said it was unfair that Qatar was in the firing line and not Russia, which was awarded the 2018 World Cup at the same time and has problems with racism in football.
“I will support Qatar World Cup 2022 until the end. I don’t find any reason that anything will be negative for the Qatar fight,” he said.
“We won the first time, we can win the second time. We won against America and London,” he added, referring to FIFA’s 2010 vote to decide the host countries.
“We will not leave our right, for whoever and for whatever. Asia will take a position, all Asia will take a position, not only Qatar.
“This is a World Cup in Asia. If they want to do a new election, they have to do it for both Moscow and Doha, because it was (decided) in the same session.”
FIFA’s ethic committee is due to announce the results of the investigation in early 2015.