German media is reporting that in the run-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar donated one million euros to flood-stricken footballers in Germany in exchange for favorable reporting. According to an article by public broadcaster ARD:
The Emirate of Qatar donated one million euros to a foundation of the Rhineland Football Association. For this purpose, mini soccer fields are to be built in the Ahr valley. The first will be inaugurated last Sunday. Walter Desch helped plan the appointment. He is chairman of the foundation to which the money went. This morning he shows a lot of understanding for his guest, also with regard to allegations of human rights violations in Qatar that have been made in many media. “I noticed and informed myself that women do have rights, too,” Desch calls out on the open stage. “And also in managerial positions, as I’ve seen.” The embassy secretary nods. It couldn’t be any better. [Translated from German]
Read the rest here.
The funds went towards Fußball hilft!, a foundation part of the Rhineland Football Association, to build mini soccer fields in the Ahr Valley, among those worst affected by 2021 floods that killed more than 180 people and destroyed large parts of the region’s infrastructure. In mid-November 2022, the first of the mini-soccer fields was inaugurated in the presence of the Deputy Secretary of the Qatari Embassy in Germany, Ahmad Hassan Al-Hay.In an interview, Fußball hilft! President Wolfgang Desch said he was aware of the motivation behind the donation and that he also accepted being an “instrument of Qatari PR.” He was quoted as saying:
They wanted good press and of course it was an important point that we then represent Qatar very positively for the World Cup.
According to an additional article, Qatar also sought to pressure the foundation into silencing dissent by its founder, former German Football Association president Theo Zwanziger, a known critic of the Gulf State. Leaked documents show that, from early 2012 to mid-2014, the US company Global Risk Advisors, directed by a former CIA employee, ran “Project Riverbed,” a covert operation spying on Zwanziger’s business dealings and private surroundings to break his public resistance against Qatar as World Cup host.
In November 2022, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported that Global Risk Advisors had carried out a “large-scale and long-standing intelligence operation” sponsored by Qatar and targeting FIFA officials to prevent Qatar from losing the World Cup.