A new high-profile voice has come out in favour of Qatar staging the 2022 World Cup in the winter, with the chairman of FIFA’s Medical Committee, Michel D’Hooghe, stating he is against holding the tournament in the searing summer heat of the Middle Eastern country.
Speaking after a meeting of the Medical Committee in the Belgian city of Knokke-Heist, D’Hooghe maintained that while World Cup games and training sessions would be held in climate conditioned temperatures of 21 degrees Celsius, the thousands of fans and other officials following the tournament would be more affected by the heat problem. “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,” said D’Hooghe, according to the Associated Press.
With summer temperatures topping 45 degrees, concerns have been voiced at how Qatar will stage the World Cup ever since the tournament was awarded to the country in December 2010. UEFA president Michel Platini has been a consistent advocate of a winter World Cup, repeating this call earlier this month, but such a switch would face the considerable obstacle of arranging the tournament around the European club football calendar. The UEFA chief has previously stated that the length of time remaining until the 2022 tournament would allow football stakeholders to reach an agreement on how best to accommodate a winter World Cup. Qatar 2022 officials have repeatedly stated they would obey a direct FIFA order to host the World Cup during the more clement winter months. Speaking following this month’s meeting of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in Edinburgh, Scotland, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said Qatar 2022 could be rescheduled from summer to winter if medical evidence demonstrated the original hosting plan could harm the health of players. Valcke stated that there are no plans for a winter World Cup at present, maintaining that a change would have to be instigated by Qatar 2022 itself.
D’Hooghe continued: “From a medical point of view, I can say we are concerned. 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.” Speaking on Friday, FIFA president Sepp Blatter insisted that if any change is made it will have to come from local organisers. “The movement must come from Qatar,” he said.