DOHA: Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organiser has again rejected suggestions in the western media that the finals should be switched writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The statement by general secretary Hassan Al-Thawadi also came againt an increasingly fevered context which has seen FIFA’s medical chairman say that the date should be changed.
Qatar was awarded the finals by the FIFA exco in December 2010 and has fought a long-running battle to convince doubters that the country can successfully stage the World Cup in the midst of its high summer temperatures.
Al-Thawadi has previously stated the much-talked about heat issue was well documented when the country won the right to stage the tournament. Qatar 2022 has maintained that it would listen to demands for a winter tournament but is committed to implementing the technology needed for a traditional summer event.
In a radio interview, he said: “We’ve worked very hard to ensure we’re within the rules of the bidding, within the rules of the hosting agreement.
“At the same time we’re delivering on all the promises that we’ve made. We’re working very hard to deliver it. The commitment is there. Qatar is the right place; the Middle East is the right place. We are representing the Middle East; it is a Middle Eastern World Cup. The Middle East deserves to host a major tournament.
“A summer World Cup is what we bid for. It’s the original plan, and we are going for it and we are moving ahead with it. I’d like to assure everybody that it is not an impossibility to host the World Cup in the Qatar in the summer.
“It will be an amazing World Cup whether it is in June/July or November/December or May or January/February at any moment in time we are ready to host- we are ready to host this at any time.”
Separately Michel D’Hooghe, chairman of FIFA ‘s medical committee, has said he will advise the exco next month of the risks of hundreds of thousands of supporters moving between venues in the extreme heat are too great.
The Belgian would only be repeating a caution expressed in the original technical assessment which the exco ignored in its original vote. But then he had an interest in the process since Belgium/Holland had been bidding, simultaneously, for the 2018 World Cup.
The committee is now expected to agree in principle to move the World Cup away from the summer months and then embark on a six-month exercise to study how it will affect the international calendar and the domestic leagues.
D’Hooghe told Press Association Sport: “My position is very clear. From the medical point of view I think it will be better not to play during the hot summer months.
“I am sure the Qataris could organise it when they have such technical skill, and I know they could play and train in a stable, acceptable temperature.
“But the World Cup is more than about games and players – I have done eight World Cups so I know a bit about it.
“A World Cup is about the 32 delegations, it’s about the whole FIFA family and the 12,000-15,000 media working very hard, and most importantly it’s about the fans.
“They will need to travel from venue to venue and I think it’s not a good idea for them to do that in temperatures of 47 degrees or more. It’s a technical question – I’m a medical man. I think we have nine years to sort it out. I respect the difficulties that there may be with some championships.
“I just have to give the medical advice and for the rest it would be a good thing to get everyone around the table to find a solution.”
Opposition to haste
The European Club Association and European Professional Football Leagues have both asked for a delay in any decision in order to look at the impact of such a switch which would involve at least three seasons.
D’Hooghe’s comments came as the United States’ FIFA member Sunil Gulati said he was prepared to “rock the boat” and demand more time before making a decision.
Gulati, who was the head of the USA 2022 bid that was defeated by Qatar in the vote three years ago, also raised the effect a winter tournament would have on other American sports.
He said: “I don’t see at this stage, frankly, how I or any member of FIFA’s executive committee could make a sensible decision. We don’t have enough information, and there are too many questions. I don’t see how anybody in a position of responsibility can take a position without some answers.
“If the position I’m taking – which is that we need a lot more information – is rocking the boat, then I’m going to be rocking the boat.”
He added: “There is another rather important sport that plays in the United States in the fall.
“How does a move affect us trying to promote the game if we’re up against the NFL or college football now? That’s a reality we have to consider. And it’s just one of a hundred things like that which need to be considered.”