Qatar’s World Cup bid used ‘black ops’

People celebrate in front of a screen that reads "Congratulations Qatar" after FIFA announced that Qatar would host the 2022 World Cup. (Reuters)
Updated 30 July 2018
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Qatar’s World Cup bid used ‘black ops’

  • Doha hired former CIA agents report claims
  • PR company hired to spread black propaganda

LONDON: Qatar hired former CIA agents to conduct a so called black operations campaign to attack rival World Cup bids, the Sunday Times reported.

The newspaper said Qatar paid a public relations firm to spread “fake propaganda” about Australia and the US — both rivals to host the 2022 competition, citing emails from a whistleblower.

Qatar’s bid to host the competition has been plagued by allegations of corruption ever since the shock announcement handing the hosting rights to the Gulf state was made in 2010.

Doha aimed to recruit influential individuals to attack bids in their native countries, creating the impression there was “zero support” to host the World Cup among the population, the Sunday Times reported.

One email that was sent to Qatar’s deputy bid leader Ali Al-Thawadi allegedly shows the state was aware of plots to spread “poison” against other bidders in the running before Qatar won the right to host the tournament.

It is alleged the plotters even planned for a US Congress resolution highlighting the harmful effects of the US bid and paid a professor $9,000 to draft a report highlighting the economic burden it would create for the country.

The leaked documents also revealed that a group of American PE teachers had been recruited to ask congressmen to oppose a US World Cup on the grounds the money would be better spent on high school sports. 

In Australia grassroots protests were organized at rugby games in Australia opposing the country's bid, the Sunday Times claimed.

FIFA rules say bidders must “refrain from making any written or oral statements of any kind, whether adverse or otherwise, about the bids or candidatures of any other member association which has expressed an interest in hosting and staging the competitions.”

There is now bound to be speculation that if the allegations are proven and linked directly to the bid team then it could increase the risk of Qatar being sensationally stripped of the event.

British MP and long-time critic of the decision to award the World Cup to Qatar, Damian Collins, has called for an independent investigation into the allegations. 

"If the Qataris have broken the rules, they should face some sanctions,” he told BBC Radio Five Live. 

Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy has rejected all the paper’s claims. In a statement, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said it “rejected each and every allegation put forward by the Sunday Times.

“We have been thoroughly investigated and have been forthcoming with all information related to our bid, including the official investigation led by US attorney Michael Garcia.

“We have strictly adhered to all FIFA’s rules and regulations for the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process.”


KSA’s martial arts heroine: ‘I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym’

Updated 19 March 2019
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KSA’s martial arts heroine: ‘I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym’

  • Young Saudi triumphant at Open International Tournament despite just two years of training
  • Zahra Al-Qurashi took the gold in the women’s 70 kg category, beating Jordanian Heba Wasfi

JEDDAH: Zahra Al-Qurashi never expected to be where she is today: A gold medal winner in full contact kickboxing at the Open International Tournament for Clubs aged just 21. What started out as a gym class two years ago soon turned into a passion, leading to her victory in Amman on Sunday.

“I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym. I found the class and gave it a try, and decided to keep attending the classes,” she said. “A year ago, I joined Flagboxing Gym, and started training with my coach Grethe (Kraugerud). With her help, I developed my style and I am improving every day.”

Full contact is a discipline of kickboxing where punches and kicks must be delivered to legal areas of the body. According to the World Association for Kickboxing Organizations’ rules, it is legal to attack the front of the head and front and side of the torso, using “ankle-level foot sweeps.” It is prohibited to attack the throat, lower abdomen, back, legs, joints, back of the head and top of the shoulders.

A medal at her first international competition, then, speaks volumes about Al-Qurashi’s tenacity. She took the gold in the women’s 70 kg category, beating Jordanian Heba Wasfi.

“As soon as I entered the ring, everything went blank, I couldn’t hear or see anyone but my opponent, so I don’t really recall hearing my name even,” said Al-Qurashi. “I got a couple of really good kicks and punches, but she was a good opponent. I was in my own zone though, following every move and made sure I didn’t make mistakes.”

Zahra Al-Quraishi, 21, is already a gold medal winner at an international event despite being a virtual rookie in the demanding sport of kickboxing. (Supplied photos)

Hala Al-Hamrani, the owner of Flagboxing Gym in Jeddah, said: “I am over the moon. I have dreamt about this happening for 16 years, ever since I started coaching. My goal was to eventually provide the ladies of this country with an opportunity to compete.”

For approximately two months, Kraugerud, from Norway, oversaw Al-Qurashi’s workouts, adding more sparring, interval training and intense ring practice.

“I’ve had Zahra spar with men, who are bigger and stronger than her, to give her a sense of what to expect in the ring, to give her more confidence and make her mentally prepared,” said Kraugerud. “I was very proud of her as she entered the ring, you could see the respect for the sport reflected in her. We did a really good job at Flag, we really pushed for this together as a team. She’s young, but she’s talented and she will go far.”

Al-Hamrani, a member of the Saudi Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Federation, added: “We got her ready by providing her with the right practice and training. It’s a dream come true and it’s very overwhelming because it was such a long process for something like this to happen. Zahra is an up-and-coming athlete who hopefully has a long future and I’m extremely excited to see what that future holds.”

Abdul Aziz Julaidan, chairman of the Saudi MMA Federation, hailed the result after a tough bout between the two competitors, and thanked Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sport Authority, for the support he had given to the team.

Upon returning to her hometown of Jeddah, Al-Qurashi was greeted by her mother. “I was hugging her and crying and mom, being mom, asked if I was crying because I got hit,” she laughed. “That was her way of saying: I’m proud of you.”