Philipp Lahm says it was 'mistake' to award WCup to Qatar

BERLIN (AP) — Seven days before the World Cup is due to start in Qatar, former Germany captain Philipp Lahm says it was “a mistake” to award the tournament to the Gulf Arab country.

Lahm, who is head of Germany’s organizing committee for the 2024 European Championship, wrote Sunday in a column for Zeit Online that the World Cup “does not belong” in Qatar and he criticized the human rights situation in the nation.

Lahm acknowledged some progress “but homosexuals are still being criminalized, women do not have the same rights as men, and there are restrictions on freedom of the press and expression.” He added that conditions for migrant workers are “devastating.”

Lahm, who won the World Cup with Germany in 2014, slammed FIFA for awarding the tournament to Qatar in 2010 when he says there were better candidates available.

“FIFA has damaged soccer and its credibility as a western organization,” said Lahm, who also questioned Qatar’s enthusiasm for the sport.

“Soccer isn’t a popular sport in Qatar and there’s practically no opportunity for girls to play,” said Lahm, who said he won’t be attending the 32-team competition that runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 18.

Lahm’s comments come after widespread protests in the Bundesliga and Germany’s second division from fans who have been voicing the same concerns.

His column also comes after former FIFA president Sepp Blatter criticized the decision to award the tournament to Qatar. The 86-year-old Blatter cited a meeting between former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and then-UEFA President Michel Platini for swaying key votes.

“It’s a country that’s too small,” Blatter said of Qatar, the smallest host by size since the 1954 tournament in Switzerland. “Football and the World Cup are too big for that.”

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The Associated Press