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Jan 4, 2013

Winter finals in 2022 could be considered

The Qatar Football Association president has admitted the country would consider an official request to make the 2022 World Cup a winter tournament.

With summer temperatures in the Persian Gulf state soaring above 50°C, fears world football's showpiece occasion would be ruined by the searing heat have led to calls to change its traditional June-July slot.

On a visit to Dubai last week, UEFA President Michel Platini claimed "the best period" to stage it would be November and December, a suggestion the organisers are willing to take on board.

"When our bid was selected by FIFA, everyone knew the World Cup was due to be played in June and July," QFA president Hamad ben Khalifa ben Ahmed Al-Thani told L'Equipe. "It's true, though, that the tournament is about more than just Qatar. It's universal. If FIFA and UEFA, notably, want to propose other dates, we have strong reasons to study that suggestion.

"For the moment, we're going ahead with the plan that it'll be held in the summer. We respect Michel Platini's opinion, but it's only an opinion as FIFA have not sent us an official request to study as yet."

Platini also suggested the state, which numbers fewer than two million people, may share the tournament with its neighbours, just as the 2002 World Cup was co-hosted by Japan and South Korea. Al-Thani, however, ruled out such a move.

"In the agreement we signed with FIFA, it states only one country shall host the tournament. There's no question of sharing it with two or three countries. The idea of a competition spread around the Gulf is not a bad idea in itself. But I can confirm: Qatar will be the sole host of the 2022 World Cup."

The tournament will require the country's relatively modest football infrastructure to be radically revamped. With ten of the 12 venues based around the capital, Doha, and the two in the north of the country easily accessible, supporters should have few logistical problems.

Nine of the stadiums need to be built from scratch, though this should pose little problem given Qatar's virtually limitless resources, while there is no risk of 'white elephants' dotting the landscape post-tournament in a country where fans usually watch their football from their living room sofa rather than from the stands.

"We're a lucid people. Stadiums of 45,000 are well above what we need," Al-Thani explained. "So, once the World Cup is over, they'll be reduced by 30 to 50% and the stands taken down will be given to countries in difficulty for them to put into their stadiums."

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