Freedom of speech outweighs offence the remarks may cause Qatar, argues judge.
A German court has ruled that Theo Zwanziger, the former president of the German Football Federation (DFB), is free to repeat his assertion that “Qatar is a cancer on world football”.
Zwanziger, who was president of the DFB until 2012 and has been involved in a 2006 World Cup scandal, first uttered the comment in 2015 to the public broadcaster Hessischer Rundfunk, adding that the bidding process that chose Qatar to host the 2022 finals should be reviewed in the wake of last year’s Fifa corruption scandal.
The Qatar Football Association filed a lawsuit over the remark claiming it showed collective disrespect and Zwanziger should not be allowed to repeat it.
But Düsseldorf’s regional court ruled that while the comment was offensive, Zwanziger was not obliged under German law to change his wording or be banned from repeating it.
“Those criticising public abuses do not have to use the mildest possible medium to highlight their points of view,” the court said in a statement.
“It has nothing to do with public defamation of the Qatar Football Association, as it was about the legality and checks regarding the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar that were at the forefront.
“With respect to the sporting, financial and political importance of a football World Cup host, the purpose for the comment, which was about drawing attention to the critical working process and decision of Fifa, is set higher than the honour of the Qatar Football Association.’
Zwanziger has said he was not referring to the Qatari people with his comment, but the bidding process that landed the 2022 World Cup.
Fifa, where Zwanziger was previously an executive committee member, faced several investigations last year leading to dozens of individuals being arrested on corruption charges.
A Frankfurt prosecutor is also formally investigating Zwanziger and other former football officials for suspected tax fraud in relation to a payment to Fifa ahead of to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Zwanziger has welcomed the investigation, saying: “I don’t have any worries in that matter. I know that I tell the truth and that I don’t have to fear anything.”