Sunday, March 1, 2015

FIFA medical chief against staging Qatar's 2022 World Cup in summer

FIFA president Sepp Blatter (right) with former Asian Football Confederation president Mohammed bin Hammam, who helped bring the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. (AP file photo)
FIFA president Sepp Blatter (right) with former Asian Football Confederation president Mohammed bin Hammam, who helped bring the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. (AP file photo)

KNOKKE, Belgium (AP) — FIFA's medical chief said he is against holding the 2022 World Cup in the summer heat of Qatar.

Michel D'Hooghe added a strong voice on Friday to the debate about whether Qatar should stick to the traditional slot of June for a World Cup or shift to a time of the year when the climate is more temperate.

Even though D'Hooghe said games and training would be held in climate conditioned temperatures of 21 degrees (70 F), the thousands of fans and other officials following the monthlong tournament would have to deal much more with the scorching heat.

"Personally, I think it would be a good thing if we could play this World Cup in better temperatures than in full summer in Qatar," D'Hooghe said.

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FIFA President Sepp Blatter said that for the time being "it is a problem without solution."

D'Hooghe's comments came after a meeting of FIFA's medical committee on the Belgian coast, and followed FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke's remarks last weekend about the tournament possibly moving to winter if medical evidence showed that playing in intense summer heat would be dangerous.

"From a medical point of view, I can say we are concerned," D'Hooghe said, and he looked beyond the plight of the players, arguing he had ironclad guarantees that the game and training grounds would offer ideal conditions.

"The problem is of course the life beside all that. And the problem is much bigger for the other people surrounding the World Cup. The public that has to move from city to city and that has to live in temperatures that are very elevated."

Blatter insists that if any change is made it will have to come from local organizers.

"The movement must come from Qatar," Blatter said.

Valcke has said that the executive committee could decide on the shift to winter if the summer heat, which can exceed 40 degrees (102 F).

UEFA President Michel Platini has already said he would prefer the cooler winter months, but such a shift would be a major headache for clubs and leagues in the midst of their own seasons.

CONCACAF, which governs the sport in North and Central America and the Caribbean, is still backing the summer World Cup. FIFA says the options could remain open until the 2019-22 international calendar is set. There is no precise deadline to approve it.

Raf Casert The Associated Press
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