It may still be more than five years away but the 2022 World Cup in Qatar still divides opinion but the most significant consideration, in all the rhetoric, is the fact that it WILL take place and it WILL be in Winter. For the first time in its history the World Cup will not be a summer tournament and that could be the most important development the world game has ever introduced. That will be particularly so for those nations who do not yet have a Winter break, notably England.
There will be another plus as far as the home of football is concerned, according to former Manchester United defender Phil Neville who won 59 caps for England. He believes the switching of the Qatar World Cup to November/December may turn out to be, `the best thing that has happened to England`. He added.
“I think players from England will be fresh and ready to take on the world`s best. We normally go into a World Cup at the end of a long and hard nine month season when our players are dead on their feet. So for an England team this switch to a winter tournament might be the best thing that ever happened.”
Presumably the same will apply to overseas players who ply their trade in domestic football and who knows it may focus fresh attention on the widespread calls for a winter break in the domestic game.
There is another advantage presented by the organisers of the Qatar World Cup and that perception is highlighted by a player who knows the World Cup and Qatar better than most, Xavi. Not only does the former Barca legend play for Qatari club Al Sadd SC but he won the 2010 World Cup with Spain. His three year deal with Al Sadd included a role as ambassador for the 2022 World Cup.
Xavi says of the 2022 tournament.
” The closer proximity of the stadia will help the players. Because of the size of the country it will mean not having to travel long distances and that is an advantage. Previously players would have to travel the day before a game.”
Xavi, like Phil Neville also believes the switch to a winter tournament will help. He says.
” I think that playing in November and December will allow players to reach the tournament in the best possible conditions. There are also stadiums employing air-conditioning so I think the conditions are there for this World Cup to be a great success.”
Xavi won one World Cup but the player who is arguably most associated with the tournament is Pele who played in the trophy winning Brazil team of 1958 and 1970 and was part of the team, though he missed the Final through injury, in 1962.
Pele, who first visited Qatar with his club Santos in 1973 says of the 2022 World Cup.
” There is still a long time to say things about the 2022 World Cup because we have Russia in 2018 first but what caught my attention is that the Qatar stadiums will have air-conditioning. Qatar is capable of hosting a wonderful World Cup. It has the right to host the World Cup and it will definitely succeed in this.”
Another legend of world football Patrick Kluivert, former Ajax and Barcelona striker, is a supporter of the decision to switch the 2022 World Cup to winter. He says.
“I think the performance of the players, mainly those who play in England, will be better than playing a World Cup after a long season.”
Kluivert also feels the change from summer to a winter tournament will be regarded as a catalyst. He says.
“This is a change and everywhere in the world changes are going to be happening. Sometimes one country has to be the first one and I think this World Cup is going to be an eye-opener for a lot of people. Once the tournament has been played the changes Qatar has made will be very big and positive for a lot of people.”
Joachim Loew, who led Germany to their 2014 World Cup success is another world football figure who supports the move of the Qatar World Cup to winter, but added a caveat.
“For the players it was the best solution but its a shame there won`t be any public viewing areas because of the low winter temperatures in Europe.”
Ronaldo, a World Cup winner with Brazil in 2002, is excited about another aspect of the 2022 World Cup, a technological one.
The former Real Madrid striker says.
“I have heard about the technology planned for Qatar 2022 and I think it will make a positive change to the future of football. The opportunity to watch two or three World Cup matches a day will be path-breaking from a fans perspective.”
For the `other` Ronaldo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Qatar 2022 is likely to be a significant moment. The striker, who skippered Portugal to Euro 2016 success has already revealed that the World Cup in 2022 will be his last for his country. Yes, he will be 37 by then but the Real star has already declared his intention, and ability, to play for Madrid until he is 40.
I think the universal consensus is that moving the 2022 World Cup to winter was a no-brainer. Joachim Loew says that `from a medical and sporting perspective it would probably have been a disgrace to have played it in summer.` There are few who would not agree.
All that remains now, and for the next five years and 10 months, is for the whole world to accept Qatar WILL stage the 2022 World Cup and it WILL be a winter tournament.