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May 15, 2013

Blatter favours winter World Cup

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has cast further doubt on the scheduling of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, telling L'Equipe: " It's not rational or reasonable to play in June-July."

With summer temperatures soaring into the 40°Cs, a number of high-profile football figures, such as UEFA president Michel Platini, have stated their opposition to hosting the 2022 World Cup in its habitual summer time slot.

Blatter, 77, believes the scorching weather in the Gulf state is not as much a problem for the World Cup as a football tournament, but rather a threat to its status as a multicultural event.

"We can have air-conditioned stadiums," he said. "But the World Cup is more than stadiums, it's all the social and cultural activities around the competition. It's not rational or reasonable to play in June-July. Our technical report, which was available to all members of the executive committee before the vote in 2010, showed up those problems."

With FIFA rejecting calls for the bidding process to be restarted, Platini has suggested the tournament should be held in winter when temperatures average around the mid-20°Cs. Such a move would require a radical logistical overhaul of the European season, though that can only be put into motion if the tournament organisers themselves request a switch.

Blatter added: "For the moment, they haven't done that. It's a matter which we're following. My friend and colleague Michel Platini has said that we couldn't play in Qatar in summer. But to play in winter, we have to change the whole international calendar. Should we do it just for a season? In any case, I'm in favour of the World Cup playing its sporting, social and cultural role. In 2022, in Qatar, we cannot play in summer."

The choice of the Persian Gulf state to host the 2022 finals surprised many. Blatter, however, insisted there had been no foul play during the voting process by members of FIFA's Executive Committee.

"There were interventions at different levels for it to go to an Arabian country. Geopolitics did its work. But no one has proved that there was any malpractice so that Qatar was chosen. The Ethics Commission can open an enquiry. It would be good to prove that it was done properly," the Swiss said, adding English complaints the 2018 World Cup was attributed to Russia should not be directed at him.

"Before a World Cup or Olympics is given to a host, there is a meeting of politicians. We had one here in Zurich. They influence the voters. England didn't get the 2018 World Cup, and since there's a cold war with FIFA."

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