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News & Comment

Zidane insists he backed Qatari bid 'to benefit sport'

Zinedine Zidane insists his decision to back Qatar's 2022 World Cup bid was motivated by a pledge to help football spread its roots in the Middle East, rather than the promise of money.

In an interview with L'Equipe, the former France star who inspired his country to lifting the 1998 World Cup denied suggestions he received huge sums of money to promote the bid.

"After studying Qatar's project, I wanted to do it and I will tell you why," Zidane said. "But first off all I want to touch upon something: money. Ten, 11, 12, 13 million euros was mentioned. I will say it clearly: that's a load of rubbish. It wasn't even a third of these sums."

Qatar surprised many observers when it beat competition from the United States, Australia, South Korea and Japan to host the prestigious Fifa tournament. Zidane acknowledges that he did get paid but says he did not benefit personally.

"It is a lot of money. But this money is distributed by the Zidane foundation [for charity]," he said. "I didn't do it for money. When I stopped playing football [in 2006], Qatar approached me and wanted me to play there. [I was offered] a blank cheque. [But] I didn't want to go and play in Qatar." However, Zidane said he gave his word to help in the future. "I said to these people from Qatar: 'One day I hope I can help you in a project that's beneficial for the future of sport, football in particular'," he said.

"For example, the redistribution of stadiums to developing countries. People will tell me 'Qatar is tiny' but through Qatar it's the whole of the Middle East that's concerned."

Qatar's bid secured the backing of Zidane, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, former Netherlands defender Ronald de Boer and Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola.