Ex-FIFA official faces court over Qatar ‘cancer’ comment
DUSSELDORF (Germany) - Former German FA (DFB) president and ex-FIFA official Theo Zwanziger is due in court on Tuesday over comments he made last year, claiming Qatar is "the cancer of world football".
The 70-year-old trained lawyer will appear in Duesseldorf's regional court when his case starts after the Qatar Football Association (QFA) filed a civil lawsuit for damages over his comments concerning the Arab States' hosting of the 2022 World Cup.
The case highlights the sensitivity surrounding the decision in December 2010 by world football's governing body FIFA to award the tiny Arab state the right to stage a World Cup finals.
The QFA is suing after Zwanziger told public broadcaster Hessischer Rundfunk: "I have always said that Qatar was a cancerous growth on world football. It all started with that decision."
Switzerland's prosecutor is investigating both FIFA's decision to award the 2018 World Cup finals to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar amidst accusations of bribery and corruption.
The Qataris want to prevent any repetition of the comments from Zwanziger, who was elected to FIFA's executive committee from 2011-2015, and was DFB president from 2006 until 2012.
Zwanziger is confident about his chance of winning his case, while the Qataris view the Germans' words as "unacceptable slander and vilification" of the Arab state and it's citizens, according to court documents.
"The case is quite simple. In Qatar, I probably wouldn't be allowed to say that. But here I can," Zwanziger said.
"It comes down to sharply criticising something that is incompatible with my social ideas. Of course, I'll be in court."
Zwanziger's lawyer has submitted a 22-page response to the civil lawsuit, which contains a biological clarification of the word 'cancer'.
He has repeatedly criticised the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar, but insists his words were directed against FIFA's system of awarding the 2022 World Cup and the choosing of Qatar, not at the country itself or it's citizens.
Zwanziger is being sued for the nominal sum of 100,000 euros ($108,305).
Frankfurt authorities are currently investigating Zwanziger and two other former DFB officials for suspected tax fraud over an irregular 6.7 million euros payment to FIFA relating to the 2006 World Cup, which was held in Germany.