Michelle Kaufman

Michelle Kaufman: Bad idea all around to hold 2022 World Cup in Qatar

From left, Nasser Al Khater, Qatar 2022 local organizing committee deputy CEO, Hassan Al Thawadi, head of the World Cup organizing committee, and FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke talk at a news conference Wednesday in Doha.
From left, Nasser Al Khater, Qatar 2022 local organizing committee deputy CEO, Hassan Al Thawadi, head of the World Cup organizing committee, and FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke talk at a news conference Wednesday in Doha. AP

As expected and as feared, it looks like the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will break from tradition and move from summer to winter to avoid extreme heat for the good of the players and fans. A FIFA task force recommended Tuesday that the tournament take place in November and December, which will disrupt the club season in more than 50 nations.

Major League Soccer, one of the few leagues in the world to play March through October, is among the only leagues doing cartwheels about the decision.

During a meeting in Doha, Qatar, the FIFA committee determined that a summer World Cup there would endanger the health of participants and fans.

Gee, really? Well, knock us over with a feather.

We could have told them that four years ago, when FIFA awarded the Cup to Qatar. Temperatures can reach as high as 122 degrees in the summer there, so the idea of playing a World Cup there seemed ludicrous from the start.

Not to mention Qatar’s human-rights issues and charges of corruption. Or the fact that it is not exactly one of the world’s soccer hotbeds, or a place that fans from all over the world can get to easily. It seemed a bad choice all the way around.

But the venue probably won’t change, so we are stuck with a Qatar World Cup. Tuesday’s recommendation is expected to be ratified by the FIFA executive committee March 19-20 in Zurich.

There is talk of the final being held Dec. 18 so players can get back to European leagues in time for holiday matches — such as the English Premier League matches on Boxing Day, Dec. 26. The tournament would start in late November, so most leagues would go on break in early November to give players time to participate in pre-Cup training camps.

Leagues might have to shut down for four to six weeks to accommodate the winter World Cup. FIFA has said it would likely shorten the tournament by a few days to reduce the disruption to clubs. There was some discussion of a January-February World Cup, but that would conflict with the Winter Olympics.

April was considered, but that is the start of Ramadan, so that wouldn’t work, either. So, November-December it is. Temperatures in Qatar during that time range from the mid-70s to mid-80s.

UEFA executive committee member David Gill was asked whether European clubs would boycott Qatar 2022.

“In a word, no,” he replied to the BBC. “People threaten things and rarely take them through. It is the preeminent competition, the World Cup. Players want to play in it. Clubs want their players to play in it. The public wants it.

“Let’s be serious — people might threaten it, people might sort of say they’re going to do it. In my opinion that will never happen.”

The news surely was not celebrated by Fox TV officials. The network was expecting to fill slow summer months with World Cup soccer, and now the tournament will go head-to-head with the NFL.

One silver lining? The European league players will be in peak midseason form rather than beaten and battered at the end of the season as they usually are. Otherwise, there isn’t much good about the decision to keep the Cup in Qatar.

Summer? Winter? Makes no difference. It’s a bad place to hold the Cup.

▪ EPL struggles: It was not a good week for the English Premier League. Despite star-studded rosters, Arsenal and Manchester City both lost their Champions League Round of 16 first legs. Barcelona beat Man City 2-1 and Arsenal lost 3-1 to Monaco. Only two teams ever have won the knockout round after losing the first leg at home, and the last one to rally from two goals down was Ajax in 1969.

In the Europa League, Liverpool was bounced 5-4 in penalty kicks by Turkish Besiktas.

▪ Another German prospect? U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann is said to have his eye on Hamburg right back Ashton Gotz, the son of a U.S. serviceman. He might invite Gotz to a U.S. training camp before friendlies at Denmark and Switzerland at the end of March. Gotz, 21, does not have a U.S. passport but could get one if he decides to play for his father’s country.

Who’s leading

English Premier League: Chelsea (60), Manchester City (55), Arsenal (48), Manchester United (47), Southampton (46).

La Liga: Real Madrid (60), Barcelona (56), Atletico Madrid (53), Valencia (50), Sevilla (45).

Serie A: Juventus (57), Roma (48), Napoli (45), Lazio (40), Fiorentina (39).

Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (58), Wolfsburg (47), Monchengladbach (37), Schalke (35), Augsburg (35).

Ligue 1: Lyon (54), PSG (52), Marseille (50), ASSE (42).

On the tube

Sunday: Valencia vs. Real Sociedad (6 a.m., BeINSport USA), Liverpool vs. Manchester City (7 a.m., NBCSN), Arsenal vs. Everton (9 a.m., BeINSport USA), Sevilla vs. Atletico Madrid (1p.m., BeINSport USA), Real Madrid vs. Villarreal (3 p.m., BeINSport USA).

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