Sepp Blatter says Qatar World Cup should be played in winter
It's time Europe realised the World Cup is a global event, says Fifa boss, and he usually gets his way
FIFA President Sepp Blatter is a wily old thing, and he was at his most guileful on Monday, admitting that it "may well be that we made a mistake" in awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
Yet in the same breath he reinforced his determination to see the tournament played there - but switched from summer to winter.
The move has long been opposed by European nations, notably the English Premier League, but Blatter had this message for those countries who are against the idea of disrupting their 2021-22 season in order to accommodate the first Middle Eastern World Cup:
"On the other hand, you must also consider political and geo-political realities. The World Cup is Fifa's biggest, if not only, global event. Who are we, the Europeans, to demand that this event has to cater to the needs of 800 million Europeans above all?"
It was a valid point but, as is typical of Herr Blatter, he then went too far, unable to resist his customary dig at the English. "I think it is high time that Europe starts to understand that we do not rule the world anymore, and that some former European imperial powers can no longer impress their will onto others in faraway places."
Oh, the irony - a lecture on democracy from a man with an unshakeable sense of his own divine right to rule.
Blatter, by now warming to this theme, then said the world "must accept that football has moved away from being a European and South American sport - it has become the world sport that billions of fans are excitedly following every week, everywhere in the world".
True, which is why the 2002 World Cup was hosted by Japan and South Korea and the 2010 event was staged in South Africa - all three of them genuine football nations with a deep-seated passion for the sport.
How many of Qatar's 1.9m population are fervent football fans isn't clear: all we know is that its obscenely rich royal family love the game.
Interviewed by insideworldfootball.com, Blatter proclaimed that after taking advice from medical experts on the effects of playing in 50-degree heat, "I came to the conclusion that playing the World Cup in the heat of Qatar's summer was simply not a responsible thing to do".
So the next step is to put the matter to a vote when the Fifa executive board meets for a two-day conference beginning October 3. Blatter has a remarkable knack of winning Fifa votes so it should be a formality.
Meanwhile, the European Clubs Association, a coalition of 207 of the biggest clubs in Europe, meets in Geneva later today to discuss the issue and, according to The Guardian, initial resistance to the idea of a summer switch is crumbling.
The organisation's senior vice-president, AC Milan director Umberto Gandini, believes it is "almost inevitable" that Fifa will get its way. And that, says the Guardian, would leave the Premier League "increasingly isolated in its fervent opposition".
A battle is looming but Blatter will win - he always does. And the Premier League has eight years to work out what on earth to do about it. ·