Sepp Blatter admits that it would be wrong for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to take place in the summer, although the FIFA President has denied reports that he regrets awarding it to the Middle Eastern nation.
Images of a melting Jules Rimet trophy are not the most pleasant of thoughts for fans of any country. Amid calls for the venue to be switched, football’s governing body insist that Qatar will host the 2022 finals, but the possibility of moving the tournament to the winter remains open.
The main issue with a winter World Cup would, of course, be the disruption it would cause to the regular football season. However, Europe’s top clubs have backed a winter World Cup and some of football’s leading figures have slammed the current plan that expects players to perform in temperatures upwards of 40 degrees.
FIFA admittedly faced a tough decision, as some of the other bids for 2022 came from Japan, South Korea and the USA – countries where the climate would be similarly unpleasant for many players.
Such temperatures would certainly not favour England, and perhaps unsurprisingly, FA Chairman Greg Dyke has predicted that the tournament will be moved as a summer World Cup in Qatar would be simply “impossible”. The Premier League’s Richard Scudamore, on the other hand, has opposed a move as a re-scheduled tournament would take place around the already hectic Christmas schedule.
Domestic leagues already struggle to fit in their fixtures without the disruption of a major international tournament. One of the difficulties in moving it would be that Qatar made their bid on the understanding that it would take place in the summer and the Arab state may have already begun their preparations.
Nonetheless, with nine years to go, it is certainly not too late to change the timing, even if it would be a little unfair on the hosts to change the location. Players’ loyalties ultimately lie with the clubs that pay their wages, and while playing for their countries at a World Cup would remain a huge honour, questions could be asked of their commitment to the international game in the middle of the season.
It would also make taking a month to prepare and train as a team hugely problematic given the busy football calendar. The football season would presumably have to begin earlier, which would minimise resting time between that and the previous season - something which could easily lead to injuries.
FIFA have spoken of their desire to develop football in countries such as Qatar, and as a consequence, not always awarding World Cups to the game’s leading nations. It is not only those nations that could suffer from a poorly-timed tournament, however, but football in Qatar itself.
Blatter can stick by his decision, but in the end FIFA awarded the finals to Qatar without giving due thought to the consequences.
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