KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A former senior Asian Football Confederation official has urged FIFA to reschedule the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to the winter months to avoid the desert state's sweltering heat.
Peter Velappan, who was the AFC's general secretary for three decades, said Thursday that cooling down stadiums and training grounds with air conditioners was "not a solution" and warned that some European teams may boycott the World Cup due to the heat. Qatar's summer temperature can top 104 degrees.
"Qatar is a nice country ... but there is no way football can be played in June and July there. No player will ever want to play in these conditions," Velappan told The Associated Press. "I would strongly recommend that FIFA reschedule the tournament to January, February. ... FIFA is obliged to do everything possible to provide the best for the teams and the football fans."
Velappan's comments echoed those of outgoing FIFA executive committee Franz Beckenbauer, who said earlier this month that making a one-time change to the European league fixtures to allow the World Cup to be played in winter in Qatar was a cheaper solution than air conditioning all stadiums.
However, AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam — a Qatar native — downplayed the hot temperatures throughout the country's bid for the World Cup.
FIFA is breaking new ground by sending the World Cup to Eastern Europe and the Middle East for the first time, with Russia to host the 2018 games followed by Qatar.
Velappan said he believes Russia "will deliver a good World Cup" because it has resources but hopes Qatar's heat issue can be resolved.
"FIFA's decision cannot be revoked. Therefore, the world has to live with it and hope both Qatar and Russia can hold World Cups of which we can all be proud," he said.