DOHA - The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will
probably be staged in January rather than June or July, FIFA
president Sepp Blatter said for the first time on Friday.
Speaking to a media roundtable in the Qatari capital before
the opening match of the Asian Cup, he said: "I expect it will
be held in the winter.
"We have time to look at this question, it is still 11 years
away but we must decide the most adequate period for a
successful World Cup which means January or the end of the
Qatar was awarded the finals last month despite a report
from FIFA's own inspectors that said playing matches in the
summer when temperatures soar to more than 40 degrees Celsius
posed a health risk to players and fans alike.
Since Qatar was chosen there has been a groundswell of
opinion that the tournament should be staged in winter.
Blatter said that even though Qatar's bid document made no
reference to switching from the traditional June and July period - and would instead use air-conditioned stadiums to counter the
heat -- FIFA were not bending the rules.
"Do not forget there are still 11 years to go and although
we have the basic conditions of their bid for a June and July
World Cup, the FIFA executive committee is entitled to change
anything that was in the bid," he said.
"We haven't broken the rules but when you play football you
have to protect the main people, the players. There were already
rumours about a winter World Cup even before, we even spoke
about it in the executive committee."
Any switch to winter may take years to be agreed as it would
clash with many of the domestic leagues, particularly the
powerhouse European ones.
The Qatari FA has yet to establish its organising committee
for the finals and, technically, it will be up to that committee
to submit to FIFA a request to change the dates.
However, a switch could yet be prompted by FIFA itself.
Any move to winter could have a massive impact on other
global sports with major events like the Winter Olympics and the
Australian Open affected.
Blatter rebuffed suggestions that there was any corruption
at FIFA, insisting it was totally transparent in all its
dealings. If that was the case, he was asked, how was it that
Qatar was awarded the finals when FIFA's own inspection team
criticised its bid and said it posed a health risk.
"You can have the best report and the worst report but
finally it's human beings that make the decision," he said.
He also repeated his pledge to continue taking the World Cup
to new territories, citing India as a possible future host.
"Back in the 1980s when we started this process under Joao
Havelange, it was always a wish to make football universal," he
said. "We have been to Africa and again it was time to go to new
territories. It was all a strategy within the double decision
for 2018 and 2022. It's a logical move."
Australia had bid against Qatar and Blatter admitted he had
no idea why their bid only received one vote last month.
"I know they were shocked, bitterly disappointed, but I dont
know why it happened," he said.
Blatter, who will be 75 in March, was elected FIFA president
in 1998 and is standing for a fourth term as FIFA president
later this year.
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