The former head of the DFB may continue to describe Qatar as a "cancerous growth on world football," at least for now. Theo Zwanziger has strongly criticized FIFA's decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup.
In a preliminary decision handed down following a hearing in Düsseldorf regional court on Tuesday, the judge rejected a civil lawsuit filed by the Qatar Football Association over the statement.
The court found that Zwanziger's right to free speech took precedence over the risk of damage to the QFA's reputation. In the lawsuit, the Qataris complained that Zwanziger's words amounted to the "unacceptable slander and vilification" of Qatar and it's citizens. The QFA was seeking 100,000 euros ($108,000) in damages and a court order for Zwanziger, who was present at the hearing, to refrain from making such comments in future. The final ruling is to be handed down on April 19.
The case stems from an interview Zwanizger gave to public broadcaster HR last June, in which he was asked to comment on the FIFA vote to award the right to host the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
"I have always said that Qatar was a cancerous growth on world football. It all started with that decision," Zwanziger said.
The former president of the DFB (German football association), has repeatedly criticized the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar, but has insisted that his words were directed against the FIFA system and not the country itself or its citizens.
Swiss prosecutors have launched investigations into the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.
Human rights concerns
Since being awarded the 2022 World Cup, Qatar has become the focus of human rights organizations, which have sharply criticized the Gulf state for the conditions faced by migrants working on the construction of World Cup facilities. A report released by Human Rights Watch last week found that labor reforms introduced last year "failed to provide meaningful protection to low-paid migrant workers and left them acutely vulnerable to trafficking and forced labor."