Sepp Blatter converts to winter World Cup

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has bowed to the inevitable and suggested the 2022 World Cup in Qatar could be played in the winter months.

The Middle Eastern state was the surprise victor in the race to hold the competition in December 2010, beating strong bids from Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

However, concerns were immediately raised over stifling temperatures during the proposed summer tournament, with player safety potentially at risk.

Qatar had sought to address these concerns by building up to 12 air conditioned stadiums powered by solar energy. Many, however, remain to be convinced over the viability of the plans.

Now, Blatter appears to be recanting on his position that the tournament would take place in the summer regardless.

Speaking from Qatar, where the Asian Cup is due to begin today, he said: “I expect the 2022 World Cup will be held in winter.

“It is 11 years away but we must decide the most adequate period, which means January or the end of the year.”

He added: “Although we have the basic conditions of their bid for a June and July World Cup, the FIFA executive committee is entitled to change anything that was in the bid.

“When you play football you have to protect the main people - the players.”

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Confusion

In a further volte-face, Blatter has also recently mooted the possibility the tournament would not even be held entirely in Qatar.

In December Blatter revealed several nations in the Middle East were interested in hosting games during the 2022 World Cup, with the FIFA president having held talks with officials in Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait during a tour of the region.

He did now, however, elaborate on which of Qatar’s neighbours wanted to host the games.

Winter Breaks

The idea of a winter tournament has gained support among sport tourism fans since Qatar was confirmed as the host.

UEFA president Michel Platini said recently: “Football in the Gulf in January, that would be easier than June, why not, it is possible.

“Many things would have to be changed in the calendar. Would we have February off and re-start the season in March?”

FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke is also a known supported of a rescheduled World Cup.

Speaking in December, he said: “Why not?

“It means you open the World Cup to countries where they can never play it in June and July because it is never the right period of time.”