x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

AFC president honoured at Dubai sports award as Arab Sports Figure of 2013

Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa wins the Arab Sports Figure award at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award and says there is no issue with 2022 World Cup in Qatar being held outside summer.

Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, centre, seen here being congratulated after winning in an AFC Extraordinary Congress in Kuala Lumpur in May 2, 2013 to become new Asian Football Confederation president. Bazuki Muhammad / Reuters
Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, centre, seen here being congratulated after winning in an AFC Extraordinary Congress in Kuala Lumpur in May 2, 2013 to become new Asian Football Confederation president. Bazuki Muhammad / Reuters

DUBAI // Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, the Asian Football Confederation chief, has backed Qatar’s ability to host the 2022 World Cup at any time of the year and dismissed the controversy surrounding the event.

In 2010, Qatar became the first Arab country to successfully bid for football’s premier event, with an eye-catching presentation that included five air-conditioned stadiums, where the temperatures inside would be almost 20°C lower than the outside.

Many people have questioned the wisdom of holding a World Cup in Qatar’s harsh summers and Fifa have launched a consultation process over whether the tournament should be moved from its habitual June and July dates to the winter to avoid the heat.

Despite the uncertainty over when the tournament will be held, Qatar are moving ahead with their original plans of constructing air-conditioned stadiums and Sheikh Salman is convinced a summer World Cup in Qatar will not be a problem.

“I don’t think there is any controversy. I think it is a controversy that has been created by some,” the Bahraini said, citing the examples of the 1970 and 1986 World Cups in Mexico, where the average June temperatures could reach 40°C. In the 1970 event, matches were played at midday.

“If people talk about the weather, I don’t think the weather is as bad as when we played in Mexico and the United States [1994], when we all saw temperatures of 100 degrees [Fahrenheit, 38°C] and the humidity was so bad,” he said. “I don’t think playing at night in June [in Qatar] would be as bad.

“But if all the people agree on moving it to a different time, and all the stakeholders are in agreement, I think we are ready to host it. Whether it is in the summer, winter, spring or autumn, we have no issues with that.”

Sheikh Salman said he also has plans to take Asian football to the next level. Winning the AFC presidency by an overwhelming vote in May, the Bahraini yesterday received the award as the 2013 Arab Sports Figure at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award for his effort to “unite” the continent.

“It’s a privilege and an honour to receive such an award,” he said. “It is an acknowledgement of the job that has been done so far, but it is also a boost and a responsibility to do better, and I hope as the AFC president, we can do a lot more because Asia deserves better.”

Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, chairperson of the supreme council for motherhood, was the Emirati Sports Figure of the year, while Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, was the recipient of the International Sports Figure award.

Victory Team 3, winners of 12 powerboat Class One World Cups, picked up the Emirati Team of the Year award, Egyptian football club Al Ahly were the winners of the Arab Team of the Year, while Iraqi weightlifter Karrar Mohammed Jawad picked up the Emerging Arab Athlete award.

arizvi@thenational.ae