Skip to content

‘Mistake': Sepp Blatter confesses possible Qatar 2022 error

Sep 9, 2013, 11:53 PM EDT

Qatar 2022

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard a FIFA executive call Qatar 2022 a mistake. But it is the first time the M-word has passed the lips of the most powerful man in world soccer. That Sepp Blatter’s now acknowledging FIFA may have screwed up may clear the way to finally correcting the problem, potentially providing long-term solutions for when climate forces World Cups to shift seasons.

In July, FIFA executive committee chairman Theo Zwanzinger (former German soccer head) called awarding World Cup 2022 to Qatar a “blatant mistake,” but citing reasons like the “unity of German football,” Zwanzinger’s complaints sounded more like self-centered objection than broad, level-headed concern.

Blatter, however, has no such allegiance, even if his devotion of FIFA’s power creates a whole different bias. But in this case, with so many people objecting to a summer World Cup in Qatar, it’s now in Blatter’s best interest to admit his organization made a mistake.

From The Guardian’s reporting (linked above):

Fifa’s president, Sepp Blatter, has admitted that it “may well be that we made a mistake” in awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar but underlined his commitment to move the tournament to the winter to avoid the searing summer heat …

Blatter has swung from saying that it was for the Qatari World Cup organisers to insist on a switch from summer, when temperatures can reach 50C, to proposing a vote when the Fifa executive board meets on 3 and 4 October on a move in principle.

This issue has been vaulted back to into the news by Tuesday’s meeting of the European Clubs Association – the body expected to provide the greatest resistance to a winter World Cup. The potential to interfere with Europe’s club season was expected to spur objections, but as organization senior vice president Umberto Gandini, AC Milan’s director, put it on Monday in Geneva, the shift in season is “almost inevitable.”

Gandini’s bigger fear, at this point, is that moving the World Cup will becoming more than a one-off for 2022, a potential policy made more likely by Blatter’s recent comments to Inside World Football (as collected by The Guardian):

“If we maintain, rigidly, the status quo, then a Fifa World Cup can never be played in countries that are south of the equator or indeed near the equator,” he said. “We automatically discriminate against countries that have different seasons than we do in Europe. I think it is high time that Europe starts to understand that we do not rule the world any more, and that some former European imperial powers can no longer impress their will on to others in far away places.”

If you’ve been following this blog for long, you know this is my exact position. Committing the World Cup to any specific time of the year precludes a number of nations from hosting the event. A number of these are highly populated nations (China, India) where a World Cup could eventually be highly influential, while other regions (North Africa, West Africa) are already soccer-loving areas where World Cups at another point of the year would make for a better event (rationale that would also apply to places like the United States and Mexico, previous hosts of World Cups).

source: Reuters

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani and his wife Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser al-Misnad hold a copy of the World Cup trophy after the awarding of the 2022 World Cup. The event marked the first time a World Cup finals was awarded to a nation in the Middle East – the second time the event will take place in the Asian confederation (Japan-South Korea 2002).

Beyond that, it’s just kind of narrow-minded. Why commit to one point of the calendar when you don’t have to? Why not take every potential World Cup and ask “how do we make this the best event possible?” Relative to that question, the status quo seems confusingly restrictive: “How do we make this the best June-July event possible?”

This, however, is not a popular view. Many believes the World Cup just belongs in the European summer. Why? Because that’s how it is. That’s how it’s always been. That’s how it should be. That’s what people have grown to expect.

You’ll hear arguments about television viewers, broadcast revenue, and the impossibility of shifting schedules. None of them are true. Nobody’s going to avoid watching a January-February World Cup. As such, broadcasters aren’t going to pay less. As much as European leagues will argue a schedule can’t be done, an early August until December, March through late June window will allow even the crowded English football season to be played out. The objections aren’t about impossibility. They’re about inconvenience.

As Qatar is teaching us (on multiple levels), there is no “should be”. Instead, it’s about doing what’s best for the event. And now that FIFA has committed to this Qatar mistake, it’s time to move the finals to January. Because that’s the way to put on the best World Cup 2022.

And once that precedent is set, it’s time to look at places like West Africa or China, look 20 or 40 years down the road, and ask who’s best served by committing the World Cup to summer? Is it the 700-plus million people in Europe? Or the over 6 billion people living elsewhere in the world?

Latest Posts
  1. A list of Manchester United-linked names to consider in silly season

    Jul 31, 2014, 3:21 PM EDT

    twitter.com/officialsslazio twitter.com/officialsslazio

    Remember when Marco Reus, Dries Mertens and Leighton Baines solidified Manchester United’s status in Europe? Us neither.

  2. Rhode Island man sues Cristiano Ronaldo over CR7 trademark

    Jul 31, 2014, 2:56 PM EDT

    FBL-ESP-CUP-REALMADRID-ATLETICOMADRID Getty Images

    Cristiano Ronaldo and Christopher Renzi are looking horns over the CR7 trademark.

  3. Report: Ochoa to Malaga is on as Mexican goalkeeper replaces Caballero

    Jul 31, 2014, 2:25 PM EDT

    Guillermo Ochoa AP

    Guillermo Ochoa starred in the 2014 World Cup for Mexico, and now will try to fill Willy Caballero’s shoes at Malaga.

  4. Sierra Leone squad banned from traveling as Ebola virus spreads

    Jul 31, 2014, 2:08 PM EDT

    Sierra Leone Getty Images

    As deadly virus continues to spread, the Seychelles refuse to let Sierra Leone travel for qualifier.

  5. Video: Pepe spits on Keita; Latter claims past racial slur

    Jul 31, 2014, 1:50 PM EDT

    Ashley Cole, Pepe AP

    Seydou Keita has left Barcelona, but being in a different league has not stopped the animosity between the AS Roma midfielder and Real Madrid’s Pepe.

  6. Steven Gerrard: “Luis Suarez too good for Arsenal”

    Jul 31, 2014, 1:27 PM EDT

    Suarez and Gerrard both nominated for PFA award, as Liverpool dominate. AP

    Gerrard: “With all due respect to them, I said to Suarez that he was too good for Arsenal.”

  7. SI report: Bayern high on Julian Green, turned down PL loan offers

    Jul 31, 2014, 1:02 PM EDT

    Bayern Munich's Julian Green fights for the ball with Al-Merrikh's Ramadan Ajab during their friendly soccer match in Doha Reuters

    Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said several Premier League teams had interest in 19-year-old American striker Julian Green.

  8. Eddie Johnson response to Brian Ching’s criticism? “Scoreboard”

    Jul 31, 2014, 12:26 PM EDT

    South Korea v United States Getty Images

    Ching said his former USMNT teammate needs incentive-laden contracts to thrive, while Johnson claims Ching is jealous.

  9. Thursday transfer rumor roundup: Kljestan to Galaxy, USMNT’er to Crew?

    Jul 31, 2014, 11:42 AM EDT

    kljestan Getty Images

    Jermaine Jones is not the only US midfielder rumored to come home, while two Red Devils are tipped for Madrid.

  10. Testimony in death of Michigan referee provides disturbing glimpse into incident

    Jul 31, 2014, 10:52 AM EDT

    www.hometownlife.com (Bill Bressler) www.hometownlife.com (Bill Bressler)

    An altercation between a player and referee in a men’s league game left the official dead. What followed has been anything but pretty.

  11. Simeone praises Klinsmann’s US program that “seduces us as coaches”

    Jul 31, 2014, 10:03 AM EDT

    Portugal Champions League Soccer AP

    The World Cup praise has been flowing for Klinsmann in international circles, though American analysts like Alexi Lalas, Eric Wynalda and others have condemned the manager’s approach as too cautious.

  12. Neymar’s recovery from World Cup back injury “almost 100 percent”

    Jul 31, 2014, 9:03 AM EDT

    Neymar AP

    Neymar’s health could be the key to whether Barcelona can weather the Luis Suarez suspension in pursuit of La Liga’s title.

  13. Glazer family to make $150 million in Manchester United stock sale

    Jul 31, 2014, 8:20 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League

    The Red Devils’ owners are making more of the club public following the death of patriarch Malcolm, and the club could lose adidas money if on-field success doesn’t return.

  14. Reports: Jermaine Jones coming to Chicago, move welcomed by Fire

    Jul 31, 2014, 7:51 AM EDT

    Jermaine Jones Instagram Jermaine Jones Instagram

    Since putting in a good effort for the USMNT at the World Cup, Jones had been sorting out his next career move and partying with celebrities like Paris Hilton and Mike Tyson.

  15. MLS Snapshot: Real Salt Lake 1-1 New York Red Bulls

    Jul 31, 2014, 12:23 AM EDT

    Chicago Fire v New York Red Bulls Getty Images

    Thierry Henry’s second half equalizer takes earns a point at Rio Tinto.

  16. MLS Snapshot: New England Revolution 3-0 Colorado Rapids

    Jul 30, 2014, 10:43 PM EDT

    New York Red Bulls v New England Revolution Getty Images

    The Revs’ eight-game losing streak ends thanks to another strong night from Lee Nguyen.

  17. MLS Snapshot: D.C. United 3-0 Toronto FC

    Jul 30, 2014, 9:20 PM EDT

    D.C. United's Eddie Johnson scored for the first time since being traded to the club this winter. His 84th minute goal left his team's game with Montréal tied, 1-1. (Photo: AP Photos) AP

    The Red fall nine points back of second place United in the Eastern Conference.

  18. Southampton’s replacement for Luke Shaw: Ryan Bertrand, on loan

    Jul 30, 2014, 8:27 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 3.46.35 PM

    24-year-old defender loaned out for the seventh time.

  19. Ugly scenes in Northern Ireland as Mexican U-19 player attempts to kick opponent’s head during Milk Cup brawl

    Jul 30, 2014, 7:29 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 4.26.41 PM

    Game is eventually cut short after a yet unnamed player aimed at the head of a fallen opponent.

  20. Atlético Madrid latest club linked with Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández

    Jul 30, 2014, 6:46 PM EDT

    Chicharito Getty Images

    Atlético’s interest could develop into Chicharito’s best option.