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FIFA official "within rights" to call Qatar a "cancer"

Soccer

The former president of the German soccer federation can continue to refer to Qatar as a “cancerous growth of world football” – at least until a final ruling by a German court.

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A Dusseldorf court has ruled that Theo Zwanziger was within his right to free speech. But the judge said he wanted more time to study opposing arguments before making a final ruling on April 19.

The Qatar Football Association filed a civil lawsuit against Zwanziger after he made the statement in a radio interview in June, calling the description “unacceptable slander and vilification” of Qatar and its citizens.

Zwanziger has argued he never intended to insult the people of Qatar but wanted to criticise the FIFA process which awarded the 2022 World Cup to the gas-rich country.

“I never for a second wanted to insult anyone from Qatar,” Zwanziger told the court.

The QFA is seeking 100,000 ($A154,906.67) in damages and a court order for Zwanziger not to make such comments in future.

In the interview, Zwanziger told a German radio station: “I have always said that Qatar was a cancerous growth of world football. It all started with that decision” – the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

The QFA’s German lawyer Peter Gauweiler said Zwanziger, who had also been a high-ranking FIFA official, was trying to cover up his own “traces” in the awarding of the 2006 World Cup to Germany.

Zwanziger angrily denied that, saying he had been striving for FIFA to reform for years.

Meanwhile, FIFA presidential candidate Tokyo Sexwale will seek continent-wide support in a final bid to revive his ailing election campaign at a meeting of African football leaders on Friday.

Sexwale was grilled overnight by high-ranking officials of his home South African Football Association (SAFA), who had earlier endorsed his candidacy in the race to replace the ousted Sepp Blatter.

SAFA wanted answers about Sexwale’s election tactics and the unconvincing progress of his campaign after they had backed his bid for the presidency and helped him obtain the five nominations needed to stand to replace Blatter.

SAFA president Danny Jordaan called Sexwale’s report to them “comprehensive” but said they would only comment further after a meeting of officials of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in Kigali, Rwanda, on Friday, in what will be Sexwale’s final opportunity to win support before the February 26 election.

Failure to land an endorsement from African football’s governing body is likely to stall Sexwale’s bid in its tracks.

There had been some media reports that dissatisfaction with his campaign was such that he might be asked to withdraw his candidacy yesterday but that proved unfounded.

Sexwale is a former political prisoner who was jailed alongside Nelson Mandela and served as Premier of Gauteng province, South Africa’s economic heartland, and later as a cabinet minister in South Africa. He also proved successful in mining and other businesses.

Yet he is an outsider in the five-man race to become football’s global leader.

He faces UEFA secretary general Gianni Infantino, Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman Al Khalifa, former FIFA vice president Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein and the long-odds outsider, Jerome Champagne.

-AP, Reuters

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