After steadfastly disregarding questions about Qatar’s searing summer heat for nearly three years, FIFA’s president has now said he will urge the country to move the 2022 World Cup to the winter.
Speaking at a conference in Austria on Wednesday, Sepp Blatter told reporters:
“We must protect our partners, our sponsors, our television partners. We must be very strong about this. We still have enough time. I will open discussions in the executive committee in October.
The executive committee will most certainly follow my proposal. And then we will have dealt with the topic for good.”
Previously, Blatter had said the only way the games could be held in the cooler winter months would be if Qatar itself asked for the change. But he has also hinted that Qatar could not possibly request such a thing without risking losing the games.
Since it was awarded the bid in December 2010, Qatar has maintained that it has been preparing for a summer World Cup, but is open to a change if that is what FIFA and the international football community wants – a stance Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee official Hassan Al-Thawadi reiterated on Wednesday.
Now that Blatter has broken the stalemate, the next challenge will be retooling the athletic calendar of a continent of football players. According to Reuters:
Moving the World Cup to the winter would have a seismic effect in Europe. Many leagues outside Britain have a winter break but they would need a hiatus of at least six weeks to accommodate national teams preparing for, and playing at, the World Cup finals.
But amid concerns from health officials about Qatar’s heat, Blatter said the players’ well-being should trump all other concerns.
This week, temperatures in Qatar have hovered around 37C (99F). But according to Al Jazeera English Senior Meteorologist Steff Gaulter, a high humidity rate of some 63 percent made it feel more like 53C (127F) on Tuesday.
“The World Cup must be a festival of the people. But for it to be such a festival, you can’t play football in the summer,” Blatter said.
Credit: Photo by alegermino