FIFA's second most powerful official, Jerome Valcke, has said the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will not be held in June and July, breaking from tradition. FIFA, however, quickly called this statement "an opinion."
Jerome Valcke told Radio France Inter on Wednesday that he did not expect the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to be played in the northern hemisphere's summer, the European club football off-season, as is tradition.
"The dates for the World Cup [in Qatar] will not be June-July," Valcke said. "To be honest, I think it will be held between November 15 and January 15 at the latest. If you play between November 15 and the end of December that's the time when the weather conditions are best, when you can play in temperatures equivalent to a warm spring season in Europe, averaging 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit)."
FIFA immediately mobilized, with spokeswoman Delia Fischer saying soon after Valcke's interview that FIFA had made no official decision on the matter and was in no hurry to do so, adding that Valcke was expressing "his view." FIFA said in a statement that no final decision would be reached prior to this year's World Cup, held at the usual time in Brazil. Nevertheless, with previous comments along similar lines from FIFA President Sepp Blatter - and UEFA head Michel Platini - the retraction might have come too late.
Valcke did not specify whether the World Cup would be moved forward or backwards, leaving it theoretically possible that Qatar 2022 could be played in late 2021, or early 2023. The Winter Olympics are scheduled to take place early in 2022, perhaps speaking in favor of a delay to the competition to avoid a clash.
No need for carbon-neutral cooling?
Qatar's baking summers had prompted doubts about the country's suitability long before the tiny Emirate was controversially awarded the 2022 competition, at the expense of rival candidates the US, Australia, Japan and South Korea. During the 2010 application process, Qatari officials promised not only fully air-conditioned stadiums, but ones that would also be completely carbon neutral.
Valcke's only superior within world football's governing body, FIFA President Sepp Blatter, had discussed the likelihood of a northern hemisphere winter competition on several occasions. The unusually hot weather was not the only public reservation about hosting world football's premier competition in a small country with neither a strong national team nor domestic league.
More recently, the welfare of guest workers helping to prepare Qatar for the competition had come into sharp focus after a damning Amnesty International report. Blatter responded to criticism from the European Parliament on the issue by saying it was unfair, pointing to European companies' contributions to the construction projects and to what he described as a European desire to award the World Cup to Qatar.
msh/ph (AFP, AP, Reuters)