FIFA sets dates for 2022 World Cup
In typically dramatic fashion, FIFA combined an announcement about the 2022 World Cup with an unexplained press conference cancellation on Friday. Football's governing body announced the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will start on November 21 and finish on December 18, only for the news to be lost in the fact that President Sepp Blatter had inexplicably not turned up for his press conference.
FIFA's executive committee confirmed the 2022 dates six months after picking the Sunday, December 18 date - Qatar's national holiday - for the final. In March, FIFA finally decided to switch the 2022 tournament from June and July to avoid Qatar's summer heat. A 28-day World Cup is four days fewer than usual and is designed to cause less disruption to clubs and leagues which must shut down for several peak midseason weeks.
FIFA had delayed choosing a start date in Qatar while it held talks on the schedules of national team fixtures between 2019 and 2024. The international calendar mandates when clubs must release players for national-team duty.
First, FIFA moved Sepp Blatter's press conference back an hour but then, minutes before it was due to start, it was called off without explanation. Blatter had been due to speak for the first time since his number two, Secretary General Jerome Valcke, was placed on leave last week following accusations regarding ticket sales at the 2014 World Cup.
Blatter has only once left Zurich, to travel to Russia, since May, when 14 soccer and sports marketing officials were arrested on money laundering and other corruption-related charges. He has said himself in Swiss press that it would be unwise to travel given the ongoing Swiss and FBI investigations into FIFA.
jh/msh (AP, Reuters)