In Depth

World Cup 'will not take place in Qatar' claims Fifa exec

German Theo Zwanziger believes Fifa will get cold feet over high temperatures in the Gulf

The 2022 World Cup will not take place in Qatar. That’s the view of Fifa executive committee member Theo Zwanziger, who believes the suffocating heat in the Arabian Peninsula will result in the tournament being relocated on the advice of medical experts.

Zwanziger, the former president of the German Football Association (DFB), told German newspaper Sport Bild: “I personally think that in the end the 2022 World Cup will not take place in Qatar”. Asked why he held this belief, Zwanziger said: “Medics say that they cannot accept responsibility with a World Cup taking place under these conditions. They [the Qatari organisers] may be able to cool the stadiums but a World Cup does not take place only there. Fans from around the world will be coming and travelling in this heat and the first life-threatening case will trigger an investigation by a state prosecutor. That is not something that Fifa Exco members want to answer for."

Zwanziger has less than a year left on the Fifa committee before he is replaced by his likely successor at the DFB, Wolfgang Niersbach, but nonetheless his words will be a further blow to Fifa and Qatar who continue to struggle to convince the world that Arabia is an ideal venue for a World Cup. With an investigation into Qatari corruption claims ongoing, the last thing Fifa needs is its own members questioning the choice of Qatar. "He is expressing a personal opinion and he explicitly says so," Fifa spokesperson Delia Fischer told Reuters. "We will not comment on a personal opinion."

Meanwhile Nasser al-Khater, Qatar’s executive director of communications, issued a defiant statement in response to Zwanziger’s comments in which he said: “The only question now is WHEN, not IF. Summer or winter, we will be ready.”

The Guardian reports that Fifa is still exploring the feasibility of moving the tournament to the European winter to avoid the 45C (or 113F) heat that a summer World Cup in Qatar would experience. The president of the Asian Football Confederation, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, chaired a meeting earlier this month with the “options of January to February 2022 and, more likely, November to December 2022 offered as alternatives to June and July”.

But such a move would encounter fierce opposition from European leagues and associations because of the inevitable disruption. Last year the Premier League declared that  the “prospect of a winter World Cup is neither workable nor desirable for European domestic football”.

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