Bill Clinton: World Cup Call Is “a Way to Embrace” Middle East

The United States may have lost out yesterday on its bid to host the 2022 World Cup, but Bill Clinton does not feel defeated.

Clinton, who had lobbied to bring the Cup to the States, speculated Thursday night that the country lost to Qatar because FIFA, soccer's governing body, wants to expand the sport's reach across the globe.

"I think they wanted to make soccer a world sport,” the former president said at The Economist magazine's World in 2011 conference kick-off dinner at the Skylight SoHo. “They wanted to say, here's a good non-terrorist, non-bigoted way of embracing -- no really, I'm not trivializing this -- a way to embrace the modernization attempt of the Middle East.”

Clinton had just arrived from Zurich where he had pitched World Cup USA with the help of Morgan Freeman and Mia Hamm. He told Economist editor-in-chief Matthew Bishop in a Q&A  that he gave his best shot arguing the United States' case for  hosting.

The former president said he couldn't speak on allegations of a corrupt selection process, but knew that Russia and Qatar had an edge because they had never hosted the World Cup before.

The United States last hosted the World Cup in 1994, and when Bishop asked if the U.S and England dropped the ball for good, Clinton stayed optimistic.

“That's a polite way of saying if we're seen as yesterday's country. Look around you. The answer is that it depends on what we do,” he said, before discussing how America can strengthen its economy and have a more effective government.

Bishop told Niteside it was interesting to hear Clinton's perception, but he personally disagrees with him.

“I think, actually, that America and Britain will not get any of these tournaments for the foreseeable future now because the rest of the world has decided that we're the past and other parts of the world are the future."

But he, like Clinton, remains optimistic.

“That may be a good thing in many ways. If the whole world is becoming more prosperous, more peaceful."

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