The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, on Thursday hit back at corruption allegations levelled towards the tiny Gulf state’s successful bid for the 2022 World Cup.
Speaking during a visit to Washington, the Qatari ruler said allegations of bribery surrounding FIFA’s deeply controversial 2010 decision to award the World Cup to his country had never been proven.
“Those allegations, I’d just said, there is a FIFA and they had people investigating and everything they investigated with everybody, all officials in Qatar, and they found out that there is nothing about (that),” the emir said during a meeting with students at Georgetown University.
Qatar has repeatedly denied accusations of skullduggery over the 2022 bid, but Thani, who acceded to the throne in June 2013, has rarely spoken on the subject.
“This World Cup is for all the Arabs and that is why we were successful,” Thani said. “It is a big challenge.”
Qatar won the 2022 tournament after seeing off competition from Japan, South Korea, Australia and the United States.
“I know that you guys here were very upset that Qatar, a small country, can beat this great country but I think you should believe that you know you can lose sometimes,” Thani quipped to laughter from the audience.
He did not comment on the ongoing controversy surrounding the proposed date change for the 2022 tournament, which is expected to be held in November and December rather than its traditional slot in June and July.
He also did not touch on the criticism by human rights watchdogs concerning Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers.
Several student protesters unfurled a banner accusing Qatar of “modern-day slavery” calling for “education, not exploitation.”
The emir is on his first official visit to the United States. On Tuesday, he met President Barack Obama, who praised Doha’s involvement in the coalition battling Islamic State jihadists.