[WORLD CUP 2022]Criticism of FIFA's decision to hold the 2022 World Cup in Qatar heated up as German Christian Seifert, the chief executive of the Bundesliga, used a media event in London on the eve of the all-Bundesliga UEFA Champions League final to launch a blistering attack on Qatar 2022, saying it was "hard, if not impossible" to play the tournament in the summer.
Seifert's criticism centered on two issues.
"The priority is always first the health of the players," he said, "and this is what makes me most upset that the decision was done that ignores probably the health of the players and that ignores what is real in the game. If you make a decision which is so far away from the sports perspective if it turns out only to become, let's say, politically driven, sports politics decision, then this is not good for the game ... I'm not sure of the credibility of FIFA. Maybe first they should change the claim -- because this is not for the good of the game.''
Qatar has proposed to air-condition all its stadiums -- now down to eight from an original list of 12 -- but that doesn't solve the problem for those visiting for the tournament. Seifert echoed the concerns of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who recently told the French sports daily L'Equipe that it was not rational and reasonable to play in June-July as there are social, cultural and commercial activities around the competition, in addition to the games themselves.
"We are really happy that FIFA recognizes it's warm in the summer in Qatar," said Seifert. "This is a great, great finding. I am absolutely convinced that it is hard, if not impossible, to play a World Cup in the summer in Qatar. Maybe you can create an artificial second sky over the whole country or over the stadia but what does that mean for the people in the media who need to work there, what does that mean for the fans who are there?''
Seifert mentioned Germany, where fan festivals added the atmosphere of the 2006 World Cup.
"I am convinced it is hard, if not impossible, to play a World Cup in the summer in Qatar," he said. "In Germany it was a special atmosphere, but I doubt that could work in [118-degree] heat. Summer in Qatar is not the right time."
Many, including UEFA president Michel Platini, have suggested that the tournament be moved to the winter when temperatures are more bearable. Seifert still has serious reservations.
Seifert said major European leagues were opposed to the disruption in the schedule to accommodate a winter World Cup.
"Talking to other leagues," he said, "I have the feeling they are very upset the decision was taken, that a four-week tournament will affect three years of leagues. This shows me FIFA as a body deciding what is good for the game, ignoring the day-to-day business of leagues."
Seifert said such a switch may violate the terms of the bidding for the 2022 finals and open up FIFA to a lawsuit.
"I am not sure if legally it can be played in the winter," he said. "The lawyers will decide in the end if it has to go to a re-vote."
Such a re-vote could benefit the USA, which lost out to Qatar, 14-8, in the final round of voting by FIFA's executive committee in a contest that also featured Australia, Japan and South Korea. The question of seeking a re-vote would at the very least put U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati in a tough position.
Gulati, newly elected to FIFA's executive committee, would have to decide whether seeking a re-vote and losing again would be more beneficial than passing on 2022 and earning the good will such a move would be and waiting to bid on 2026 when the USA would be the favorite in a field that would include countries from Africa and South America, but not Europe and Asia.
One question that would have to be sorted out is just who would do such a re-vote. FIFA is pushing to have its entire membership -- not just the executive committee -- vote on World Cup hosting.
Regardless of the question of whether Qatar bribes -- often alleged but never proved -- decided the 2022 vote -- Blatter says "geopolitics did its work" -- the executive committee that was charged to decide the 2022 host has been disgraced amid a host of other scandals.
Of the original 24 members who were supposed to vote in December 2010 in Zurich, eight have been kicked out of soccer or resigned in disgrace.