By Zack Peñalva, Sports Editor
At the time I’m writing this, it’s 8 p.m. in Doha, the capital city of Qatar. The country shares one border with Saudi Arabia; the rest is surrounded by the Persian Gulf. Near the tip of the small peninsula, Doha’s sprawling metropolitan looks out of place compared to the desert that surrounds it. Even though the sun has set and the city sits right on the coast, the temperature is still above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the summer months of June and July when the World Cup is traditionally held, Qatar’s temperatures will consistently stay above the 100-degree mark. When FIFA chose Qatar to host World Cup in the year 2022, there were promises that stadiums would be outfitted with state of the art cooling technology. Despite this technology never having been proven viable in the scale Qatar promised, they were still awarded the tournament.
Since that announcement, a lot has happened in Qatar in their preparations for a tournament still seven years away. Entire cities are being built up from the sand by a labor force working in conditions that can be described on a scale from illegal to inhumane according to reports from the BBC and human rights group Amnesty International.
Ignoring that fact, which FIFA has gladly done, there is still the issue of how exactly a soccer tournament was supposed to be held in temperatures that FIFA itself called “high risk.”
FIFA’s solution was revealed during a press conference last week, where they announced that they were moving the world’s largest sporting event from its traditional June/July dates, to a 28-day window from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18. This will make the tournament three days shorter than usual, with the same amount of games still expected to take place.
In addition to shortening the tournament, FIFA’s decision will also massively impact leagues around the world in their scheduling. The majority of the world’s leagues are in play from August through May. Moving the World Cup will cause huge problems in all of the major leagues in Europe.
On top of that, FIFA’s recent activity seems to have struck a nerve with many of their major sponsors. Last Friday, McDonald’s, Visa and Coca-Cola issued seemingly coordinated statements asking for FIFA’s controversial president Sepp Blatter to officially step down. It’s a major power play by the companies, and the long-term effects are still unclear.
What is sure is that FIFA is in a very precarious spot. Moving the tournament’s date is just one more stone added to the leaning tower that FIFA has made with their decisions.