x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Fifa president expects 2022 World Cup to be in winter

Sepp Blatter makes his strongest endorsement yet of moving the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to winter, saying players should be spared from the blistering summer heat.

DOHA // Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, expects football’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar to take place in winter to avoid the desert heat.

Summer temperatures can soar above 45°C and the impact on players and fans has been a concern since Qatar was awarded the competition last month, ahead of Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

The Gulf state’s bid was based on the construction of air-conditioned stadiums, but many of the sport’s biggest names, including the German legend Franz Beckenbauer, the England coach Fabio Capello and the Uefa president Michel Platini, have since promoted the idea of a contest in winter, when temperatures in Qatar are between 20°C and 30°C.

Blatter has suggested a winter event would make more sense. Speaking in the Qatari capital before last night’s opening match of the Asian Cup, he said: “I expect it will be held in the winter. We must play at the most adequate period to have a successful World Cup, which means January or the end of the year.

“To have a successful World Cup, we have to protect actors, the players, which means [playing] in winter.”

To implement a change, Qatar must make a request to Fifa, football’s governing body. The proposal will face opposition from football leagues in Europe, but Blatter was confident there was time to convince sceptics.

“We will take it up at our executive committee meeting in March,” he said. “If there really is a will to change dates then we have enough time to do it because we still have 11 years to go,” he added.

arizvi@thenational.ae