Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Sepp Blatter warms to idea of a winter World Cup

FIFA president Sepp Blatter

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has thrown his weight behind moves to stage the 2022 World Cup in Qatar during the winter to avoid the heat problems.

The move to holding that World Cup in January, first suggested by Germany's Fifa member Franz Beckenbauer last week, is gathering momentum with Blatter and Fifa's general secretary Jerome Valcke both now behind the idea.

The change would have major implications for domestic competitions throughout Europe.

Blatter told a news conference in Abu Dhabi, where the Club World Cup is being staged: “I definitely support (the idea) to play in winter here.”

Qatar have not requested a change to the timing of the tournament from the usual June/July and had planned to air-condition all stadiums and training pitches to combat the heat, which can reach up to 50 degrees centigrade.

Valcke said yesterday that allowing the World Cup to move dates would open up the tournament to be staged by all nations.

He said: “It means you open the World Cup to countries where they can never play it in June and July because it's never the right period of time.

“If you can do so, it would be a solution to open the organisation of the World Cup to a number of countries in this period which is winter in Europe but not winter in the rest of the world.”

During the bidding for the World Cup, USA's Fifa member Chuck Blazer argued the summer heat in Qatar would be too intense, saying: “You can air condition a stadium, but I don't see how you can air-condition an entire country.”

Meanwhile, Blatter has also apologised for his apparent joke saying gay fans should “refrain from sexual activity” if they go to Qatar — where homosexuality is illegal — for the 2022 World Cup.

Blatter has been heavily criticised for his remark and he said: “It was not my intention and never will be my intention to go into any discrimination.

“If somebody feels hurt, then I regret and present apologies.”

He added: “We open everything to everybody and I think there shall not be any discrimination against any human beings be it on this side or that side, be it left, right or whatever.

“If they want to watch a match somewhere in Qatar 2022, I'm sure they will be admitted to such matches.”

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