Too much money at stake for FIFA to risk World Cup being taken away from Qatar, argues whistleblower.
Phaedra Almajid says she was offered protection by the FBI.
The FIFA whistleblower who made allegations about Qatar’s World Cup bid, says she fears for her life after receiving threats to herself and her family.
Phaedra Almajid, who worked for the Qatar 2022 bid team before losing her job in 2010, provided evidence to Michael Garcia’s investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.
Almajid spoke on condition of anonymity but believes her idientity was exposed in a summary of Garcia’s report published by FIFA ethics committee judge Hans-Joachim Eckert last week.
“Do I regret being the Qatar whistleblower? It has cost me personally, it has cost me emotionally – I know for a fact I will be looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life,” Almajid told Sky Sports News.
“It has cost me my credibility and most importantly it has cost me the security of both me and my children. However I did witness something and I believe I did have to say what I had witnessed.
“I had a lot of cyber attacks, a lot of them were directed to my children. I do believe it was through the Qataris. They knew a lot of information about me that I don’t believe FIFA knew or were interested in. I was a bigger threat to the Qataris than I ever was to FIFA.”
Almajid and fellow whistleblower Bonita Mersiades, who worked for Australia’s 2022 bid, have both lodged formal complaints against Eckert’s report.
“I was shocked, immediately I was crying,” Almajid said. “Every time I met with Michael Garcia he ensured me everything was confidential.
“It was agreed before I even met him that I would not participate in the investigation unless I was kept anonymous and everything I provided was kept in confidence.
“I had no reason not to trust him so I was completely in shock at what was done. I feel frightened at the moment because Eckert so conveniently, so calculatedly made sure that my identity was revealed.”
Almajid added: “Why has it happened? Simply to silence any other whistleblowers and to intimidate me and Bonita so we will stop talking about what happened during the 2022 bidding process.”
Almajid also revealed she has been offered protection by the FBI as a result of the threats made against her and her two children.
“I was at home watching TV and then there were three FBI agents at my doorstep and said they wanted to talk to me,” she said. “I let them in and they said to me, ‘We are here because we know you have received threats and we know the security and that of your children has been jeopardised, so we want to be here to see what we can do to help you.’
“It was terrifying. I opened up the door and there were three men there with their badges and they asked me all questions pertaining to my time in Qatar, what I had observed, what I had witnessed, everything and especially about the threats and affidavit.”
Although Eckert cleared Russia and Qatar to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, Garcia has appealed against the summary, claiming it contained “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions” reached in his own findings.
Almajid remains sceptical that her evidence will be used by FIFA, arguing that too much is at stake for football’s governing body to ever risk invalidating the bid process.
“How much is this World Cup worth?” she asked. “I think it’s worth billions, it brings billions of revenue into FIFA and the country who hosts it. Remember, I’m one single mum against the richest country in the world and the richest sporting organisation in the world.
“People might find it strange that this is happening in football but a lot of things have happened in football and FIFA and I’m sure I’m not the only one who is scared right now.”