International Football

Let’s not get too snotty about Qatar

qatar-fansThere’s been a lot of nonsense written about the prospect of a winter World Cup in 2022. In fact, much of it has more than a hint of xenophobia.

Now, I am not advocating that FIFA have not screwed up, because they have to some extent, but if they had proposed, up front, that the Middle East gets to host a World Cup but in order to accommodate it, we’ll have to run it mid-season, then nobody would have voted for it.

There have been claims that there’s been a little bit of over-zealous persuasion here and there, but let’s not be drawn on that. Qatar it is and FIFA and the rest of the world should get on with conjuring up with a solution to the problem.

There’s nine years to go before Qatar 2022, so it’s not as if it’s on the horizon. Who’s upset? European league administrators and clubs who think nothing of jetting thousands of miles to earn money from prestige friendlies in Asia and the US, sometimes when they have a blank weekend during the season normal.

The  well-placed scaremongering is doubtless coming from these sources. According to the European media, it will upset league schedules for years and disrupt the balance of international football. Total rubbish.

Let’s be clear, however, there’s little way that Qatar can host a World Cup in the European summer months.  The average temperature in June and July is around 41 degrees centigrade. But wasn’t it in 1994 that such temperatures were recorded for the US-hosted World Cup? And the two Mexico World Cups (1970 and 1986) both saw the thermometer head well north of 30.

So we can safely assume it won’t happen in the traditionally-allotted timeframe. The solution is not exactly mind-blowing given there’s only 12 months in a year and that some parts of Europe have mid-season winter breaks. It’s simple, have a universal winter-break that lasts six weeks and hold the competition during January-February 2022.

To allow for this, the 2021-22 season across Europe could kick-off in July 2022 instead of mid-August and after the World Cup, the players can return to their clubs to finish the season, which could end late-May to compensate for the mid-term break. Is it really that difficult to envisage?

There could be benefits for the actual World Cup competition in that the players will be fresher – how often do we hear that international players are too tired, the excuse for lack-lustre games in the bloated group stages?

Sepp Blatter, loveable rogue that he may be, points to the fact that football doesn’t belong to Europe and he’s right.  With the old continent in a bit of a mess, the future financial clout in the world game may be in the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and the oil-rich Middle East.  FIFA has taken a gamble on Qatar, not just because of its sub-tropical climate, but also because it is situated in the tinder box that is the Middle East. Qatar is an absolute monarchy and has the highest “human development” index in the region, despite a host of human-rights issues (mind you, Argentina were given the 1978 series). In other words, if you’re going to have a World Cup in the Middle East, it’s arguably the most stable place to do it.

For the British audience, there’s another reason worth considering. January and February are miserable months. The glow of the festive season has gone, it’s grey and cold, summer seems a long way off. A World Cup would be a good way to start the year and bridge the gap to spring. From a personal viewpoint, that sounds quite reasonable….

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