Why We Should Just Say No, to a Winter World Cup
By Johnny Connelly
Paradise Found? – An artist’s impression of one of the Qatar stadiums
There’s a very good reason why Nat King Cole’s famous ‘Christmas Song’ starts: “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire”, and not “Neymar blazing over an open goal” – The World Cup is a summer event, and should be kept as far away from the festive season as T in the Park, Scottish Cup Final day, and 99’ cones at Ayr beach currently are.
Eyebrows were raised across the globe when Qatar was selected as the preferred bidder for the 2022 World Cup, especially over the likes of Australia, but this latest suggestion to shift the tournament to a November/December affair is a bridge too far, (in my eyes at least).
I fully understand that it could be troublesome to host a tournament in the height of summer in a country where the temperature at this time can frequently exceed 40 degrees, but the notion of it being warm in Qatar isn’t a new phenomenon. This begs the question, why even select Qatar as the hosts in the first place?
FIFA’s approach to the World Cup is abundantly clear. They’ve bought into this utopian idea to move the world’s premier football tournament to every far flung corner of the planet.
I’m all for raising the profile of the game in countries that aren’t steeped in the game. For example, the USA have never looked back since hosting the tournament in 1994, but their situation differs from that of Qatar’s in terms of infrastructure and cultural readiness for what is essentially a heavily westernised event.
FIFA’s motto, “For the game, for the world”, seems as though it couldn’t be further from reality. Given how inaccessible Qatar is to western tourists for this type of event, the average punter would have better luck going to the World Cup if it were hosted on the moon.
The disruption it’ll cause to domestic football would be at best bizarre, and at worst, catastrophic. The sheer logistics of working in a winter shutdown of two months or more across the biggest leagues in the world would decimate the rhythm of the traditional season, and could open a can of worms in terms of inviting the questioning of all our football traditions.
Traditions are what make our game ‘beautiful’, and when you start to challenge things like having the World Cup as a summer event with a carnival atmosphere, you’re toying with the very building blocks of the tournament itself.
Football purists will point you towards the likes of Espana ’82, Mexico ’86, and France ’98 to name but a few instances of how the World Cup should be hosted. The shambolic decision to award the tournament to a nation, then latterly question if it’s even possible for them to host it within the usual parameters really tears the Hollywood shine off what should be the biggest event in the world.
We can only hope that lessons are learned, and common sense prevails to allow the World Cup to retain its usual summer timeslot. Questions will be raised about the World Cup in Qatar in the lead up to, during, and after the tournament itself.
The hope is that in the future, the focus will once again return to bringing the games to the people, creating a carnival atmosphere, and facilitating a multicultural celebration of the beautiful game for all to enjoy – Tartan Army included of course!