Qataris 'would switch World Cup to winter'

 

The Qatari football authorities would move the 2022 World Cup to the winter if they were ordered to by Fifa, an official revealed yesterday.

But no discussions have taken place so far with the sport's ruling body, and plans are proceeding to stage the tournament in the summer, where temperatures in the gulf state can reach 45C (113F).

"Currently, our plans are to host the World Cup during the summer," Hassan al-Thawadi, general secretary of the Qatar 2022 World Cup committee, told a conference in Doha.

"If Fifa, the international football community, ask for Qatar to host the World Cup in the winter then we won't be fighting the football community. As of yet, no such discussions have been put in place."

Qatar, with a population of less than two million, was a surprise choice to host the tournament in 2022, with bids from Australia and the United States rejected. Since winning the right to stage the tournament last December, the Qataris have indicated they would build enclosed, air-conditioned stadiums to overcome the heat.

However, a winter World Cup would come in the middle of the season in Europe and the Premier League, among others, would be likely to fiercely resist the switch.

Whenever the World Cup is staged, al-Thawadi estimated that 800,000 foreign fans would visit Qatar during the tournament.

"This World Cup will bridge a gap between east and west," he said.

Since the Fifa vote, the Arab Spring has seen upheaval across the region, with the long-standing political leaders of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia ousted and more than 3,500 people killed in Syria. The Middle East's political landscape may change dramatically again before 2022, but al-Thawadi played down concerns.

He said: "We've seen economic turmoil throughout the world, we've seen riots in England, we've seen significant issues occur in the European Union. The world is changing. We have recognised that in our bid. You have to be ready with contingency plans, but in the end, tsunamis happen, flooding happens, earthquakes happen, economic turmoil and political turmoil happen. Does that mean the world is going to stand still? No, it should always continue."

This month, Doha's Al Sadd won the Asian Champions League, defeating South Korea's Jeonbuk on penalties, and al-Thawadi was bullish on Qatar's prospects.

"Our goal is to qualify for the World Cup before 2022," he said. "By 2022 we will have a very good team.

"You will see Qatari players in La Liga and the Premier League. Also, you will find young players from Europe looking to come to the Middle East to play in our leagues here."

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