BRUGES: Michel D’Hooghe has explained why he opposes European clubs’ proposal of an April/May World Cup in Qatar in 2022 writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
But his comments have suggested that the clubs might usefully consider adjusting their ideas and shuffling further forward if they wished to avoid the ultimate disruption of a mid-season tournament.
Controversy has swirled around the staging date, because of the heat, ever since the Gulf state was declared in December 2010 as having won the right to host the finals.
At a taskforce meeting in Zurich recently, the European Club Association proposed April/May as an acceptable alternative while the European Professional Football League suggested May/June. FIFA president Sepp Blatter prefers November/December; other ‘stakeholders’ want January/February which would mean a sports politics war over a clash with the Winter Olympics.
D’Hooghe, chairman of the world federation’s medical committee, has just explained in Qatar why the spring options would be too risky on health grounds.
The Belgian was speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Qatar about groin injuries in sport.
He said: “I can consider the possibility of April, kicking off matches late in the day. It could be a good solution, just like November. But it would have to stop before the last days of April and beginning of May.
“Certainly May 29 [the ECA proposal for the Final] is too late from the medical point of view. I would prefer it be come a little bit forward.”
D’Hooghe, who has never disclosed for which bid he voted, added: “My opinion, as FIFA medical committee chairman, has always been that we need to avoid the hottest months of the year.
“It’s not only because of the players – because I know the [aircooling] technology means they can train and play in ideal conditions at 20 or 21 deg. Celsius.
“But the World Cup means more than the players. It means the complete 32 national team squads, with their coaches, 500 FIFA and organising staff, the media working to different time zones and, of course, the fans who travel from match to match.
“Imagine that in heat of 45 to 47deg.”
However D’Hooghe indicated an interest in finding a compromise when he insisted that he had never been a proponent of a winter World Cup, only “let’s avoid the hottest months.”
He accepted that organisers, broadcasters and sponsors also had their own assessments of an ‘ideal alternative’ but he was speaking from the specifically medical point of view.
D’Hooghe added: “I hope we can take a final decision on March 15.”
Qatari organisers have insisted they want a decision next year though some members of the FIFA executive committee have discussed delaying a decision until after what promises to be a fraught spring with the outcome of the 2018-2022 bid scandal report and a presidential election.
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