FIFA president Sepp Blatter is suggesting that the 2022 World Cup, recently awarded to Qatar by his corrupt organization, be played in January instead of the summer. The World Cup has always been played in summer because that’s the off-season for the world’s important leagues — the ones that produce nearly all of the stars that give the Cup its luster. But temperatures in Qatar reportedly reach 130 degrees during summertime.
Some major European leagues take a winter break during parts of January due to the weather. But even the German league, which basically takes the month off, would suffer disruption unless Blatter contemplates a World Cup in which teams have no time to practice together before their opening round.
England, which has no winter break, must find Blatter’s suggestion particularly galling. First, FIFA awards the 2018 Cup to Russia, possibly in retaliation for the British media’s exposure of FIFA’s corruption. Then, Blatter raises the prospect of blowing a hole in the English Premier League’s season. For most hardcore soccer fans in England and other serious soccer nations, the essential game is played at the club level, while the World Cup is the face of soccer mainly for more casual fans.
Some EPL managers promptly expressed outrage at Blatter’s idea. Mick McCarthy of Wolves, who managed Ireland during the 2002 Cup in the Far East, branded it “nonsense.”
I think it’s stupid and I think the more airtime [Blatter] gets, he makes it worse for himself. Taking the World Cup around the globe is one thing, but taking it to a place that’s 50 degrees in the summer, or whatever it is, is nonsense. Then saying ‘we’ll all shut our leagues and play in the winter’ is even more nonsense.
Ian Holloway, quote-machine and manager of EPL surprise package Blackpool, was equally unimpressed:
It’s gone crazy – I think the world has gone completely on its head. We’ll just change everything because their weather is really hot. What happens to our football and everybody else’s that would be playing through it? Do we just stop for a while? Genius, absolutely magnificent. I’m going to go home and tell my turkeys ‘It’s not Christmas, we’re moving it – it’s all right, you’ve got some respite! I’ve had a word with FIFA and we’re going to move Christmas, it’s no problem’.
By contrast, Chelsea’s manager Carlo Ancelloti found merit in Blatter’s scheme. However, he made it clear that this is only because, having watched Italy play in the heat of Washington, DC during the 1994 World Cup, he’s persuaded that it’s virtually impossible to play in Qatar’s summer heat.
But FIFA voted to play in Qatar under a proposal that contemplated playing in the summer. Qatar promised to use outdoor air-conditioning, or some such thing. With the billions of dollars the tiny nation was throwing around, no one seemed to question this idea.
Now, apparently, it’s recognized as crackpot. But I don’t see how, in fairness, the World Cup can be switched to January without a re-vote that would enable the other candidate nations to “run” against a Qatar that would stage the Cup in January.
Unfortunately, fairness has nothing to do with it and, in any event, Qatar presumably would simply spread more money around and win the re-vote.