Germany’s Leon Goretzka criticises FIFA over Saudi Arabia World Cup

Bayern Munich midfielder Leon Goretzka believes FIFA has not corrected its “mistake” when it comes to picking World Cup hosts.

Saudi Arabia was confirmed as the host of the 2034 edition as it was the only eligible nation to submit a bid in time for FIFA’s deadline of 31 October.

Asked for his thoughts about Saudi Arabia hosting the tournament — which was last year held in Qatar — Goretzka said: “The mistake was in the awarding (of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar) and the criteria that played a role. That obviously has not been corrected for the next one (the recently-awarded World Cup in Saudi Arabia) and that is certainly not good.

“But I’m concerning myself first with what’s ahead this summer and I’m extremely happy because these questions will probably decrease and we can concentrate on football, which is what we all want.”


Saudi Arabia are part of football’s VIP club – and there is nothing anyone can do about it

Goretzka has previously been outspoken on human rights issues. When scoring the goal which effectively eliminated Hungary from Euro 2020, he formed a heart with his hands in front of opposition fans — a section of whom had been accused of homophobia and racism at the tournament.

Last year, Goretzka responded to comments from former Qatar international Khalid Salman — made to German broadcaster ZDF — which claimed that homosexuality was “damage in the mind” as he said gay fans would have to “accept our rules,” referring to homosexuality being illegal in the Gulf state.

“It’s very oppressive,” Goretzka said in response. “This is an image of a man that comes from another millennium.

“It leaves you speechless that something like this can be said by a World Cup ambassador shortly before a World Cup.”

Goretzka is spending his sixth season at Bayern Munich and has been capped 55 times by the German national team.

Why does FIFA want a Saudi World Cup?

Analysis from The Athletic’s Matt Slater:

We can start with the answer you will hear for the next 11 years: to grow the game.

FIFA and its president, Gianni Infantino, tell us regularly how the role of world football’s governing body is all about developing the sport across the world. FIFA’s website also tells us FIFA “is modernising football to be global, accessible and inclusive in all aspects. Not just on one or two continents, but everywhere”.

You might be wondering how being “inclusive in all aspects” translates to Saudi Arabia, where Amnesty International reported over 100 executions between January and October 2023 and where LGBTQ+ people are discriminated against in law, but that, according to FIFA’s president, is actually very exclusionary of you.

Other clues for why FIFA might enjoy a World Cup in Saudi Arabia may be traced back to an interview with Jerome Valcke, the former FIFA secretary general (later convicted by a Swiss court for accepting bribes), who said in 2013 that sometimes “less democracy is better for organising a World Cup”.

This means heavily state-sponsored World Cup projects are often more concerned with the prestige of holding a tournament and less concerned by the heavy costs of holding a tournament, while they may also be happier to leave FIFA to exploit commercial assets. In the 2026 tournament in the U.S., for example, FIFA is discovering all manner of challenges with the costs of renting training facilities for teams, as well as major disputes with individual cities and stadium owners over the revenue-sharing agreements. This should all be more straightforward in Saudi Arabia.

This all leads to a more profitable World Cup for FIFA and the proceeds can then be spread more evenly across member associations, which means those member associations are happier with FIFA and their president.



Saudi Arabia to host 2034 World Cup – what does it mean for wider world of football?

(Photo: Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

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