The head of Qatar’s World Cup organising committee has dismissed suggestions that the country bought the 2022 tournament.
Hassan Al Thawadi spoke for the first time since allegations emerged that Mohammed bin Hammam gave Jack Warner, a fellow FIFA vice-president millions of dollars shortly after his nation was awarded football’s showpiece event.
Bin Hammam, a Qatari, was not directly linked to the Gulf state’s bid, was subsequently banned for life from football over allegations he paid bribes while running for the FIFA presidency in 2011.
Those directly involved in Qatar’s bid for the tournament have always denied any wrongdoing.
Al Thawadi, who led their delegation, told talkSPORT: “We did not buy the World Cup. It’s as simple as that.
“I go back to a lot of people that look at us and say it’s shocking that we won and I go back to the simple thing – why we won. It’s because we worked hard, harder than a lot of people.
“We put heart and soul into this and that’s what frustrates me. When we first started, people thought it was a no-go. A lot of people sat down and said, ‘You’re daft, you’re not going to win it’.
“When we first started we said, ‘Okay, we want to host the World Cup. What’s stopping us’?
“Number one, country size, because we’re a small nation. Okay, fair enough. But we looked back and said, ‘Is that such a bad thing’?
“When you look at South Africa, which was a huge success, when you look at Brazil and Russia, you’re looking at nations where travel is an issue.
“It takes a lot of effort and puts stress on people, whether it’s football players who, after a very stressful season, are expected to play at the highest level, but at the same time looking at fans.
“Can they move from one place to another, looking for accommodation, looking for flights? What we’re saying is, ‘it’s a compact World Cup’. You’re based in one place, in one accommodation, you get to explore, you get to watch more than one game a day.
“The location of Qatar being in the centre [of the world] means it’s easy access. You’ve got a lot of airlines that congregate in this point of the world. It makes it a lot easier for a lot of people to arrive here.”