THE Fifa executive committee member Theo Zwanziger has broken ranks to claim that, in his opinion, the 2022 World Cup finals will not be held in Qatar because of extreme temperatures in the Gulf state.
While those on the Qatari organising committee have consistently stated a summer tournament is viable thanks to the development of cooling technologies to be used at grounds, sentiments their general secretary Hassan al-Thawadi reiterated on Monday, there is still widespread concern for the health of players, officials and supporters.
Zwanziger, the former president of the German football association, still sits on the Fifa executive body which, in 2010 and before his time, awarded the tournament to Qatar. He suggested the threat of legal action by anyone affected by the scorching heat may force the finals to be moved. â€œI personally think that in the end the 2022 World Cup will not take place in Qatar,â€ said the German, who is a long-standing critic of the decision to award the games to the Gulf state. â€œMedics say that they cannot accept responsibility with a World Cup taking place under these conditions.
â€œThey may be able to cool the stadiums but a World Cup does not take place only there. Fans from around the world will be coming and travelling in this heat and the first life-threatening case will trigger an investigation by a state prosecutor. That is not something Fifa Exco members want to answer for.â€
Fifa has been quick to point out that Zwanziger, who had been speaking to Sport Bild, was expressing a personal opinion rather than reflecting the views of the governing body. As a result, it declined to comment on his specific observations.
Nasser al-Khater, Qatarâ€™s executive director of communications, responded in a statement by saying: â€œThe only question now is WHEN, not IF. Summer or winter, we will be ready.â€
Zwanziger is due to step down from Fifa at its congress next May where he is likely to be replaced by his successor at the DFB, Wolfgang Niersbach. That would suggest Zwanziger will no longer have any involvement or influence at Fifa by the time it begins considering the findings of the investigation into alleged bribery and corruption in the award of the finals to Qatar, being led by Fifaâ€™s prosecutor Michael Garcia, let alone the question of human rightsâ€™ abuses and the rights of migrant workers building the stadiums in the country.
Fifa continues to explore the possibility of moving the tournament to the European winter to avoid the soaring summer temperatures, which routinely rise above 40C. The president of the Asian Football Confederation, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, chaired a meeting to discuss the matter earlier this month with the options of January to February 2022 and, more likely, November to December 2022 offered as alternatives to June and July.
Yet there remains opposition from domestic leagues who will inevitably be disrupted, with plenty of obstacles still to be overcome. â€œWe applied for a summerâ€™s World Cup, and the cooling technology that we have suggested already exists,â€ Thawadi said in an interview with Die Welt. â€œFor example, we have showed at the public viewing during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil that the technique works at outdoor events. It was a great success.
â€œAnd our system is sustainable. It is clear a World Cup in the summer is possible but, if Fifa wants to reschedule the tournament, that is also OK with us. We will just wait but Iâ€™m not afraid [of the tournament being denied Qatar]. There is no basis for us losing the World Cup. It is the first World Cup in the Middle East and will be a platform that brings people together. It will leave a positive legacy, so I am sure the finals will be held in Qatar in 2022.â€ – The Guardian