DOHA, Qatar – FIFA president Sepp Blatter made his strongest endorsement yet of moving the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to winter, saying Friday that players should be spared from the blistering summer heat in the desert nation.
Blatter, attending the Asian Cup in Qatar, said he felt the tournament should be moved to a cooler time of the year to protect the health of the players. A similar move was initiated for this year's Asian Cup, which normally is held in the summer.
"We must play at the most adequate period to have a successful World Cup," Blatter said. "To have a successful World Cup, we have to protect actors, the players, which means (playing) in winter."
Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup in December despite fears that summer temperatures exceeding 100 degrees pose a serious health risk to players and fans.
Soon after it won the bid over the United States, Australia, South Korea and Japan, several top soccer executives led by FIFA executive committee member Franz Beckenbauer and UEFA President Michel Platini endorsed the move.
The only opposition to the move thus far has been Europe's big clubs, which fear a winter World Cup would throw their league schedules into chaos. Among those that have come out are the heads of AC Milan and Barcelona.
Blatter said any change in the World Cup would have to first come from Qatar, which so far has not requested it. If Qatar would make such a request, then it would be up to the FIFA executive committee to rule on a first-ever winter World Cup.
Blatter did not say when the committee might make such a decision but insisted there is plenty of time.
Qatar has been silent on the issue since winning the bid, and a spokesman for the bid organizers could not immediately be reached for comment.