Blatter Changes Tune on Summer Qatar World Cup; CONCACAF Boss Blasts Soft Racism Sanction

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Blatter was "a happy president" after announcing that Qatar had won 2022 World Cup hosting rights (Getty)
(WFI) FIFA president Sepp Blatter is slowly backtracking on his initial warmth for a summer 2022 World Cup in Qatar, saying “it's not rational and reasonable” to play in the traditional June-July window.

"Whether it's the right choice, that's up to the executive committee," Blatter was quoted by AP as telling L'Equipe. "The problem is knowing whether it can be played in June-July in Qatar."

In its World Cup bid, Qatar 2022 proposed stadium cooling technology to beat the 40-50C heat of the Gulf state’s summer.

"The World Cup is more than just stadiums, it's an array of social and cultural activities around the competition," Blatter added. "What do we do? It's not rational and reasonable to play in June-July.

"Our technical report, which was available to all the members of the executive committee before the 2010 vote, exposed these difficulties."

That FIFA Evaluation Commission report revealed that playing the World Cup in “the two hottest months of the year” in the Middle East “has to be considered as a potential health risk”.

His comments contrast with remarks he made in the immediate aftermath of Qatar’s bidding victory on Dec. 2, 2010 in Zurich.

"For 2018 and 2022, we are going to new lands. Never before has it been in eastern Europe or the Middle East," he said at the victory ceremony for Qatar.

"The Middle East and the whole of the Arabic world was waiting for a long time for the World Cup and now we have it.

"So I am a happy president when we speak about the development of football."

Qatar 2022 organizers today reiterated a previous statement on the summer/winter debate that has swirled around the nation’s World Cup plans since it won hosting rights.

“Concerning the timing of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, we have always reiterated that we bid on the parameters that we would host in the summer of 2022,” the statement said.

“Various figures from the world of football have raised preferences for hosting in the winter. We are ready to host the World Cup in summer or winter. Our planning isn’t affected either way, as we are committed to the cooling technologies for legacy reasons.

“We committed considerable resources during the bidding process to prove that the cooling technology (which will cool open-air stadiums, training grounds and outdoor fan areas) works. The technology is already in use since 2008 at Al Sadd Stadium.”

Qatar 2022 added: “We will forge ahead with implementing and developing this technology. Our commitment to this is grounded in the legacy it will offer for Qatar and countries with similar climates. It will enable sport to be played 12 months of the year. The application of this technology is not limited to stadiums or sports venues. It can be applied in public spaces, so outdoor life can be enjoyed all year round, regardless of climate.”

Webb Blasts Italian FA for Soft Racism Sanction

Jeffrey Webb, the head of FIFA’s anti-racism and discrimination committee, has joined Sepp Blatter in blasting the Italian FA for its lenient punishment over racist incidents in Serie A last weekend.

In a statement, he said the Italian FA’s decision to only impose a 50,000 Euro fine on Roma for the racist actions of its supporters during a match at AC Milan on Sunday, without further investigation, was “completely unacceptable”.

“This incident is a clear example of the issue the anti-racism and discrimination task force has at hand,” he said.

“It also reinforces the imperative responsibility FIFA, the confederations and each of its 209 member associations have in implementing strong resolutions to support football’s zero tolerance policy and strengthen FIFA’s fight against racism and discrimination.”

Earlier this week, Blatter was highly critical of the sanction for the racist abus of AC Milan’s Mario Balotelli and Kevin-Prince Boateng, saying “lessons have not been learned” by the Italian federation following FIFA’s push to crackdown on the problem.

Blatter suggested this latest incident of racism could prove a blessing in disguise ahead of the FIFA Congress later this month in Mauritius, where world football’s governing body is expected to take a strong stand against racism and discrimination in the sport.

Resolutions with sanctions for racism will be voted on by delegates, meaning they would be applied worldwide if it is passed.

“The resolutions before the FIFA Congress on May 31 will mark an important step towards eradicating these intolerable acts of violence from our fields,” Webb added.

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