In the latest twist to FIFA’s controversial decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup, the “whistleblower” who claimed that Qatar’s bid had offered bribes to FIFA ExCo members has sensationally retracted her allegations.
Phaedra Almajid, a former media officer for the 2022 Qatar bid who now lives in the United States, had alleged that three African members of the FIFA executive committee, Jacques Anouma, Issa Hayatou and Amos Adamu, had been offered bribes of up to $1.5million.
Over the weekend, she retracted the claims and issued an apology. “I believe it is of absolute importance to submit a completely accurate picture of my activities as the so-called “Qatar Whistleblower”, she wrote on a website set up specifically to retract the allegations.
“I have lied about all facts concerning the behaviour and practice of the Qatar 2022 Bid.”
Almajid’s original allegations were first aired in a letter from the Sunday Times to the British parliamentary Culture Media and Sport committee. The allegations were made under parliamentary privilege and The Sunday Times did not publish the allegations themselves.
FIFA came under pressure to investigate Almajid’s allegations but she refused to travel to Zurich to discuss the allegations with FIFA after the world governing body refused to agree to her demands for witness protection.
Qatar bid officials had always referred to Almajid as “an embittered ex-employee” and Almajid has insisted that she has “not been subject to any form of pressure or been offered any financial inducement to do so”.
It is unclear why Almajid chose this past weekend to make her announcement.
Mohammed Bin Hammam, the Qatari president of the Asian Football Confederation and suspended ExCo member, is due before the FIFA ethics committee next week to answer allegations that he offered bribes to members of the Caribbean Football Union to vote for him in June’s FIFA presidential election.
Last week, the senior engineer working on Qatar’s 2022 stadiums, Michael Beavon, caused a storm when he told a London conference that FIFA had suggested matches in 2022 could be played in three periods of 30 minutes to help reduce player exhaustion in the summer heat.
The 2022 World Cup is still 11 years away. The whistleblower retraction is merely the latest twist in a long-running saga.