FIFA President Blatter attends a news conference at the Home of FIFA in Zurich

Blatter expects FIFA executive committee to approve winter 2022 World Cup


In a move that will cause a predictable amount of ire, FIFA’s executive committee is expected to approve a schedule shift for the 2022 World Cup, one that will allow the tournament to be played in the winter and avoid the Qatari summer. According to FIFA president Sepp Blatter, the decision is expected to come when the ExCo meets in early October (3rd and 4th), and while there have been no official dates set for an event that’s still nine years away, the governing body’s board are expected to pave the way for an unprecedented move.

There are no FIFA statures that state when, exactly, the quadrennial event must take place, but World Cups typically take place in the Northern Hemisphere’s summer months – when the European soccer season is not in session. But with the 2022 final awarded to Qatar, where the average July temperature in Doha is 106 degrees Fahrenheit, many have called for a shift to the Middle East winter.

Though Qatar’s initial bid for the 2022 event included plans for air-conditioned stadia, hosting a World Cup in July may be deemed impossible in the Middle East, according to Blatter. From the AP’s Sunday report:

“Those that have taken the decision at the time, they knew there is problems with the heat. They knew it, because it was in the (technical) report,” Blatter said. “It was wrong to say, `Now we have to play in summer,’ because in summer you cannot play there.”

“Therefore the ExCo now shall take the decision – and they will take it – that in summer you can’t play in Qatar.”

That’s why Blatter’s confident the committee will approve the “move”:

“I would be very much surprised, more than surprised, if the ExCo will not accept the principle you cannot play in summer in Qatar,” Blatter said in an interview on the sidelines of the annual charity football tournament in his home village. “What will be following, this would be then decided later.”

Is it really impossible to play a World Cup in a Qatar summer, given the ability to air condition a venue? Probably not, but that’s not the point. The language we’re seeing from Blatter reflects the momentum of the debate – a quality that makes a shift inevitable.

Clearly, UEFA is not going to like this. I don’t mean UEFA as in the actual governing body (Michel Platini has favored this move). I mean UEFA as the collection of clubs that make up that confederation’s leagues. Clearly, leagues like England’s, Spain’s, Germany’s and Italy’s are big businesses – powerful entities that won’t take kindly to having to change their habits. For the most part, these leagues play soccer in winter, and no matter where on the calendar you plop the tournament, people will complain. Expect some clubs (perhaps even whole leagues) to plot ways to with get around or outright fight this.

But again, it’s a little ludicrous that a World Cup has to take place at a set point in the year, particularly one that would preclude a lot of the world’s potentially soccer-loving population from hosting the event. If the World Cup wants to go to China or India in 20 (or 40) years from now, should it be beholden to Euro-centric tradition that unintentionally precludes growing the sport? How about North Africa, some day? Or do we just say “you’re not allowed this tournament, ever.” For some people, that’s the answer.

Whether Qatar is the location for which we want to create exceptions is another debate, but that boat’s also sailed. Qatar is hosting the World Cup. At this point, everybody’s chief concern should be putting on the best event possible.

With nine years to prepare, surely leagues as resourceful and powerful as Europe’s can find some way to negotiate this challenge. And if they can’t, they’re not nearly as resourceful and powerful as we think they are.

FIFA seems set to adjust their international calendar for 2022. Europe may be told to deal with it.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.