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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

World Cup Soccer Final Captains Oppose 2022 Winter Tournament

Real Madrid's Goalkeeper and Captain Iker Casillas
Real Madrid's goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas. Photographer: Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images)
Netherlands' Defender Giovanni van Bronckhorst
Netherlands' defender Giovanni van Bronckhorst who captained the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup Final. Photographer: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images
Iker Casillas and Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who captained Spain and the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup final, don’t want the 2022 edition to be moved to the middle of the European soccer season because of the impact it would have on domestic championships.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter said four days ago he expected the 2022 World Cup to be played in December and January because afternoon temperatures in June and July in host country Qatar seldom fall below 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
Spain, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany are among European countries whose leagues take a midwinter break between mid-December and early January. A hiatus of about 60 days would be required for players to prepare for, play in and recover from a World Cup, said Van Bronckhorst.
“Normally it’s less than a month, or some countries just play on, like in England,” the Dutchman said in an interview in Zurich yesterday. “It may be a two-month break. Obviously, it’s a lot.”
Stopping league play in January would be illogical, said Casillas, the Real Madrid goalkeeper who led Spain in its 1-0 win against Van Bronckhorst’s Netherlands team in the World Cup final in July.
“January is when the league really starts,” Casillas said in an interview. “January, February and March are the best moments in the season. So I feel this is impossible.”
Three-Year Turmoil
A switch may force European leagues to alter their calendars for three seasons and would make it hard for players to maintain consistency in league play, said Van Bronckhorst.
“I can imagine for players it will be quite difficult,” said the former Barcelona and Arsenal defender, who ended his 16-year career after the World Cup final.
Turkish midfielder Hamit Altintop, who also opposes a long midseason break, said European leagues may have to be recalibrated to end before the 2022 World Cup starts should the tournament be moved to December and January.
“The only possibility is to make it like Russia, with the league season from March until November, because to have a break for three months in the middle of the season will be a problem,” he said in an interview.
Qatar currently is hosting the Asian Cup, a quadrennial tournament featuring the region’s best national teams. The last edition of the tournament was played in July in Indonesia --because of the heat, the 16-team event is being held now.
‘A Strange Situation’
“It’s a strange situation that the Asia Cup is being played when players should be with their club teams,” said Altintop, who had just returned from Qatar, where he spent a week training with his club team, Bayern Munich.
English league leader Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund, which tops the German Bundesliga, are among the teams to lose players for the competition.
The comments by the players -- who were in Zurich to see Barcelona’s Lionel Messi named soccer’s best player for the second straight year -- follow criticism from club coaches including Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger.
“It looks like an idea that has come out of nowhere because nobody was told that when the bid was voted for,” the Frenchman said. “That would demand a complete reorganization of the world’s fixtures. It would create many problems between clubs and countries, and countries and FIFA.”
Because no public mention of a possible switch was made before FIFA’s 22-member executive committee chose Qatar as the host, losing bidders may have a legal claim against FIFA, said Graham Taylor, a former England national team manager who’s worked with the sport’s governing body.
No Request
The 74-year-old Blatter, who’s seeking a fourth four- year term as president this year, said Qatar’s bid committee would have to initiate talks to change the tournament dates.
That request hasn’t been made and last week Mohamed Bin Hammam, a Qatari who heads the 46-nation Asian Football Confederation, said his country remained committed to a summer event.
Qatar, which is smaller than Connecticut, has promised to spend $50 billion on infrastructure projects before the World Cup and officials have said stadiums will be cooled to limit the health risks to players and fans.
The 2010 edition attracted about 3 million visitors to South Africa, more than double the population of Qatar.