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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blazer questions 2022 World Cup thinking

Chuck Blazer, the lone American on the FIFA executive committee, has broken his silence on the issue of a winter World Cup, telling Reuters that the idea of switching the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to the winter would “upset the entire football world.” Blazer had been very critical of the Qatar 2022 bid's plan to hold the tournament during the summer -- he famously remarked, "You can air condition a stadium, but I don't see how you can air-condition an entire country -- and now says the whole reaction to the Qatari victory suggested little drift was given to FIFA's inspection reports in the first place.

Blazer said there was a "certain incongruity" with colleagues like Michel Platini and Franz Beckenbauer -- the so-called soccer people -- on the executive committee having no trouble with a summer World Cup in Qatar before the vote but shortly after Qatar's 14-8 victory over the USA suggesting that it had to be played in the winter.

As chairman of the FIFA organizing committee for the Club World Cup, Blazer knows all about a winter tournament in the Gulf, having just overseen the organization of the FIFA club championship in the United Arab Emirates for the second year in a row.

“This isn’t a matter of taking four weeks out of the winter and saying here is the World Cup," Blazer told Reuters. "It is more a matter, at that point, of taking 10 weeks out of the winter and saying here, we are carving out an entire new summer in order to have proper preparation for the teams.”

The Club World Cup Blazer has organized would likely fall by the wayside in the event of a 2022 World Cup in the winter.

“If the thought is to move it to winter," he says, "we should do a careful analysis involving all the stakeholders, clubs, leagues, coaches, players, everyone and sit down and figure out what is the best thing to do because moving it to winter has serious ramifications,”

Blazer says FIFA's inspection reports -- in which Qatar's plan to hold the tournament in the summer was deemed a potential health risk -- were sold short.

“I think the process where we send people out to each of the venues, to do a comprehensive report and they come back and present that report and nobody asks any questions about it and nobody spends any time dealing with the issues of the report, certainly sells the reports short, or even ourselves short,” he said. “Somehow we have to be certain that we take matters like that seriously into consideration. I’m not sure how we go about doing that -- maybe the inspection gets a certain amount of weight, maybe votes get another weight. I don’t know, but we have got eight years to figure that out … before we vote on 2026."