The timing of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar brought further trouble for FIFA on Wednesday, with its No. 2 official ruling out a June-July tournament, only to be told by international soccer’s governing body that the matter was still under consideration.
The scheduling of the tournament has been hotly debated ever since FIFA controversially awarded it to Qatar in December 2010, especially over fears that the summer heat in the Gulf emirate would be dangerous for players and fans alike.
“The dates for the World Cup [in Qatar] will not be June-July,” FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke, the second-most powerful man in international soccer, told Radio France.
“To be honest, I think it will be held between Nov. 15 and Jan. 15 at the latest,” Valcke said. “If you play between Nov. 15 and the end of December, that’s the time when the weather conditions are best, when you can play in temperatures equivalent to a warm spring season in Europe, averaging 25 degrees.”
“That would be perfect for playing football,” he added.
However, FIFA reacted swiftly to Valcke’s comments by saying they were his personal views and that no formal decision to move the date of the tournament would be taken before this year’s World Cup finals in Brazil, starting in June.
“Secretary-general Jerome Valcke explained today in the Radio France interview — as he had already mentioned previously — that in his view the 2022 FIFA World Cup must take place in winter and the best possible time frame would be 15 November to 15 January,” FIFA said.
“As the event will not be played until eight years’ time the consultation process will not be rushed and will be given the necessary time to consider all of the elements relevant for a decision. Consequently, no decision will be taken before the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, as agreed by the FIFA executive committee,” it added.
Valcke did not say whether he favored a World Cup in the winter of 2021-2022 or 2022-2023, but the deciding factor could be the timing of the Winter Olympics in early 2022.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has also voiced support for a winter World Cup, with a preference for November-December over January-February.
The awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar has been beset by criticism, especially over the searing heat that bakes the Gulf emirate in the summer, when the tournament is traditionally held.
Calls had grown increasingly strident to switch it to the winter time, to accomodate players and supporters.
However, this ran into opposition from European clubs, who would lose their top players for several weeks in the middle of the season, and from the International Olympic Committee, which is fearful of any competition with the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Qatari World Cup organizers reacted with caution to Valcke’s words, saying they would follow whatever directives they received from FIFA.
“During the FIFA Executive Committee meeting in October it was agreed that FIFA would enter a period of consultation on the ideal time of year to host the World Cup in Qatar — with a recommendation expected after the World Cup in Brazil,” the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee said in a statement.
“We await the outcome of this consultation period. We will be ready to host the World Cup regardless of the outcome,” it added.
There was particular anger in England at FIFA giving the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a country with little soccer tradition, while scorning the attempt by England, the sport’s birthplace, to host the 2018 edition.