x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Blatter: The UAE has raised the bar

Fifa president also urges serious discussion on starting 2022 World Cup in January.

Sepp Blatter, left, the Fifa president, alongside Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak, Minister for Public Works, applauds during the Seongnam-Inter Milan match on Wednesday. Blatter yesterday complimented the UAE for organising another successful Club World Cup.
Sepp Blatter, left, the Fifa president, alongside Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak, Minister for Public Works, applauds during the Seongnam-Inter Milan match on Wednesday. Blatter yesterday complimented the UAE for organising another successful Club World Cup.

ABU DHABI //Sepp Blatter yesterday complimented Abu Dhabi and the UAE for successfully staging the 2010 Club World Cup, but in a wide-ranging session with reporters he also called for the 2022 Qatar World Cup to be played in January so that footballers could escape the summer heat of the Gulf.

"I express my compliments to the Football Association of the United Arab Emirates for the hosting for the second time of this competition, and I have to say, as I did last year, they did it well," the president of Fifa said at Zayed Sports City. "We have nothing, nothing, but really nothing to criticise about this competition but only express compliments to … the UAE for the hospitality and the facilities they have put forward for players, coaches, visitors and spectators."

Last week, Blatter broached the possibility of other countries in the region, presumably including the UAE, hosting some of the 64 games of the 2022 World Cup.

Yesterday, however, Blatter said that "it is a Qatari decision" and ventured no opinion on whether making it a multi-nation event would be a good idea.

He did, however, make clear that he believes the 2022 tournament should be played in January.

"I support definitely, definitely to play in winter here, to play when the climate is appropriate, and I am thinking about the footballers, not only the fans, but the footballers, the athletes giving the spectacle, and protecting them."

He conceded a World Cup in January would pose problems in the international football calendar, but noted that with a head start of more than 11 years a solution could be found "if there is a will to do so".

Blatter expressed satisfaction at seeing an African team, TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo, playing in the Club World Cup championship match at 9pm tonight against Inter Milan, the champions of Europe.

He said he had thought an African national side was more likely to reach a World Cup final first, but "the fact that an African team is in the final of this Fifa Club World Cup, a very high-level competition, I can tell you this is an achievement that will already be sealed in the history of football".

He also suggested football fans take advantage of a chance to watch the "very strong" Korean side Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma play Internacional of Brazil in the third-place match, also tonight, at 6pm at Zayed Sports City.

Blatter has been in and out of the UAE for 10 days, watching most of the matches but flying to meetings in Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and South Africa.

He hailed the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

"The Arab world has won the right to organise the World Cup," he said, recalling many previous bids from Arab countries from Morocco to Egypt.

He mentioned India as a potential site for a future World Cup and jokingly suggested "Alaska or the Arctic" as future football frontiers.

In response to a question from a Japanese reporter, he said that the UAE had set a new standard in putting on the Club World Cup. The event, having been held in Abu Dhabi for the past two years, returns to Japan for 2011 and 2012.

Said Blatter: "This organisation here in the United Arab Emirates, they have put the bar very high, so the Japanese, now they have to go home and work and not say 'We have done it two years ago and it will be easy.' No, the bar is higher."

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

Internacional v Seongnam, 6pm, Abu Dhabi Sports 1 and Aljazeera Sport 2, +3, +8 & HD2