PARIS (AP) - Zinedine Zidane insists his decision to back Qatar's 2022 World Cup bid was motivated by a pledge to help soccer spread to the Middle East, rather than the promise of money.
In an interview with sports daily L'Equipe on Wednesday, the former France star who inspired his country to the 1998 World Cup title denied suggestions he received huge sums of money to promote the bid.
"After studying Qatar's project, I wanted to do it and I will tell you why. But first of all I want to touch upon something: money," Zidane said. "Ten, 11, 12, 13 million euros was mentioned. I will say it clearly: that's a load of rubbish. It wasn't even a third of these sums."
Qatar surprised many observers when it beat competition from the United States, Australia, South Korea and Japan to host the prestigious FIFA tournament.
Zidane said he did get paid but says he didn't personally benefit.
"It is a lot of money. But this money is distributed by the Zidane foundation," he said. "I didn't do it for money."
Zidane retired from soccer in 2006, and said he was asked to play for Qatar.
"When I stopped playing football, Qatar approached me and wanted me to play there," he said. "(I was offered) a blank check, I could have written whatever sum I wanted. I didn't want to go and play in Qatar."
However, Zidane said he gave his word to help in the future.
"I said to these people from Qatar: 'One day I hope I can help you in a project that's beneficial for the future of sport, (and) football in particular,'" Zidane said.
"For example, the redistribution of stadiums to developing countries. People will tell me 'Qatar is tiny' but through Qatar it's the whole of the Middle East that's concerned."
Qatar's bid secured the backing of Zidane, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, former Netherlands defender Ronald de Boer and Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola.
"Why shouldn't they have the right to organize a World Cup?" Zidane said.
Zidane also gave his backing to France's successful bid to host the 2016 European Championships - but is angry at the players for going on strike at the World Cup in South Africa. The team refused to train in protest after striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home for insulting former coach Raymond Domenech.
"I don't think they yet realize what they did," Zidane said. "For them it was nothing major, when in fact it was serious."
Several players received bans, with former captain Patrice Evra handed a five-game suspension.
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