The so-called ‘Qatar Whistleblower’ has apologised for fabricating untrue stories about the country’s 2022 World Cup bid and which have amounted to one of the most devastating sports media hoaxes in years.
I can reveal that the whistleblower is Phaedra Almajid, an Arab-American who was employed by the Qatar bid between May 2009 and March 2010. Almajid held the position of International Media Specialist and worked closely with chief executive Hassan Al-Thawadi.
Overnight she has sent a statement of apology accompanied by a sworn affidavit of the true facts to FIFA, to the Asian confederation, to the African confederation, tothe Qatar FA, to the Qatar World Cup 2022 Bid Committee and to the national associations of Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria.
Almajid told me: “I did something very wrong and I have to do everything I can to put the record straight. I have to clear my conscience and cannot live with these lies anymore and I am very sorry to everyone I hurt, especially all my colleagues at the Qatar Bid.”
Upset at being sacked, Almajid later fabricated what she now admits were lies about the bid having offered bribes to FIFA executive committee members Issa Hayatou, Jacques Anouma and Amos Adamu and that it had been considering financial support for the Argentinian federation led by Julio Grondona, FIFA’s senior vice-president.
Hayatou (AFC president from Cameroon), Anouma (from Cote d’Ivoire) and Grondona were members of the FIFA executive committee which, last December 2, awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 finals to Qatar. Adamu (from Nigeria), also a member of the exco, had been suspended weeks earlier on vote-rigging charges sparked by a separate investigation by The Sunday Times.
Qatar’s victory shocked many outsiders because of the country’s small size, lack of World Cup football pedigree and searing summer temperatures. With allegations of vote-rigging already swirling around FIFA, Almajid’s ‘inventions’ fed a constituency of critics all too eager to believe the worst of the Qatar strategy.
Publication of the false accusations in The Sunday Times and Wall Street Journal appeared to legitimise them. However Almajid refused to sign an affidavit when asked to do so by The Sunday Times and refused to travel to Zurich to talk directly to FIFA.
Informal acceptance of such allegations was illustrated when FIFA’s secretary-general Jerome Valcke, in an email exchange with the then FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, had referred to Qatar having “bought” the World Cup.
Warner, who had been president of the Central and North American Confederation, later quit all football after being charged of colluding with Asian president Mohamed Bin Hammam to offer bribes to Caribbean federations ahead of FIFA’s presidential election.
Bin Hammam happens to be Qatari. Hence the allegations against him exacerbated doubts which Almajid’s claims had already raised, quite wrongly, about the credibility of Qatar’s World Cup success. Qatar bid officials had always rebuffed firmly all allegations of impropriety.
The allegations even went as far as the British Parliament. The Sunday Times – owned, like the Wall Street Journal, by Rupert Murdoch – included them in a written submission to the Select Committee on Football Governance.
This had fuelled pressure – and not only from within the United States which had been defeated by Qatar – for a re-vote by FIFA’s executive on host rights for the 2022 World Cup.
Almajid told me she had decided to make her retraction “because it is the right thing to do” and insisted she had not come under any outside pressure nor had she been offered any financial inducement.
Culled from Sports Features.com, edited by KEIR RADNEDGE
** has been covering world football for more than 40 years and has covered every World Cup since 1966. He spent 25 years on UK national newspapers and is a former editor and continuing long-serving columnist of the monthly World Soccer. He has written more than 30 books from tournament guides to encyclopedias and is a regular analyst of the international game on TV and radio. For the past three years he has been Editor of Sports Features Communications.
** KEIR RADNEDGE has been covering world football for more than 40 years and has covered every World Cup since 1966. He spent 25 years on UK national newspapers and is a former editor and continuing long-serving columnist of the monthly World Soccer. He has written more than 30 books from tournament guides to encyclopedias and is a regular analyst of the international game on TV and radio. For the past three years he has been Editor of Sports Features Communications.