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James Corbett, Inside World Football


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

FIFA President Blatter Concedes Round to Rival Bin Hammam

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has effectively conceded a round in his increasingly bitter dispute with Football Confederation (AFC) chief Mohamed Bin Hammam.

Speaking in an interview with the BBC, Blatter admitted that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was scheduled to be held in the tiny Gulf state’s scorching hot summer months despite his repeated suggestion to hold the tournament in the winter.

Blatter said his suggestion had been put “on ice” and that any changes to the tournament scheduled would have to be requested by Qatar.

Bin Hammam, a Qatari national with close ties to Qatar’s ruling family, has rejected Blatter’s suggestion as well as calls that other Gulf states be allowed to co-host the 2022 World Cup.

Blatter’s sniping at Qatar ever since FIFA in early December awarded it the hosting of world’s biggest sporting event has brought the animosity between him and the AFC president into the open with Bin Hammam demanding an end to Blatter’s 12-year tenure as president of FIFA.

Bin Hammam has hinted that he may challenge Blatter in May elections for the FIFA presidency.

Blatter’s BBC interview is the second time in recent weeks that the FIFA executive has been forced to back down.

FIFA last month issued a statement quashing talk of holding the Qatar World Cup in the winter. The statement acknowledged that such a proposal could only come from Qatar itself and that no such suggestion had been put forward.

The statement was in part prompted by fears that a change in the terms of Qatar’s successful bid in which it beat Australia, the United States, Japan and South Korea, could force it to cancel Qatar’s victory and hold a new bid for the hosting of the 2022 World Cup.

The dispute over whether the tournament should be held in Qatar’s average temperatures of above 40 degrees Celsius has divided European club soccer. England Football Association General Secretary Alex Horne sided with Bin Hammam, warning that switching the Qatar tournament from June/July to January as a 'logistical nightmare' because it would require a winter break in the Premier League.

On the other hand, Philipp Lahm, who captained Germany at last year's World Cup, said it would be "madness" to stage a summer World Cup in the Middle East and FIFA's inspection team said conditions were a potential health hazard to players and supporters.

Qatar has insisted that the fierce summer heat will not be a problem as all its stadiums will be air-conditioned.

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