Though the main event is still almost a full decade away, debate continues to rage surrounding the FIFA World Cup of 2022.
Ever since it was awarded to Qatar as the host, there have been plenty of voices suggesting other nations might have been better suited to what is a huge global event, with the high summer temperatures that the players will have to contend with just one of many issues to talk over.
One of the suggestions to overcome this particular problem has been to switch that year's World Cup to a winter event, and FIFA president Sepp Blatter, as per the BBC, has recently voiced his intention to do exactly that.
Despite the facts that such a move would overhaul tradition—also make a mockery of what voting nations thought they were selecting a host for, interfere in a major way with domestic leagues across Europe, and beyond that, it goes against the apparent wishes of the vast majority of fans everywhere—a switch to a winter World Cup in Qatar would likely be to the benefit of a number of competing nations.
Summer temperatures in Qatar can reach as high as 50 degrees Celsius, with an average of around 40, according to the BBC.
While the Arab or some African nations might be able to compete in such instances, it could potentially see European countries playing in temperatures twice as high as they are used to.
England or France, for example, would not usually see average summer temperatures of higher than 27 or 28 degrees Celcius—and most of the domestic season would take place at far lower levels than that, in the autumn and winter.
Mediterranean countries such as Italy or Spain might get far higher temperatures, but they still wouldn't reach the upper 40s or be subject to quite as dry heat.
There are other factors to consider, too.
Plenty of nations are used to partaking in the World Cup at the end of a long season, but what about before the new season begins?
Sweden regularly qualify for the World Cup and count on a number of home-based players—four in the last squad, with a further dozen or more having been included over the last year—to fill out the squad, supporting international stars such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jonas Olsson. The Allsvenskan, the national league, however, runs from April to November.
If the World Cup begins in January, the Swedish squad could potentially have close to an entire month of rest, and then two or three weeks preparation and preseason training before launching straight into the World Cup. This would place them, fitness and preparation-wise, at a significant advantage to other opponents who either only had two weeks for a winter break or, indeed, simply went straight from domestic league play to the competition.
Looking further afield, there would be a sea-change in Brazil.
There, domestic football runs from January to May for the State Championships—more localised leagues—and then from May to December for the Brasileirao—the national league.
Of course, not all the Brazil squads are home-based, but from their successful Confederations Cup squad, no less than 11 players did play in Brazil, with Neymar, Fernando and Paulinho since completing moves to Europe.
B/R's Brazilian league expert, Callum Fox, indicated in a related conversation that Brazil could indeed find it more difficult going into a winter World Cup.
A winter break could be very tough on Selecao players based in Brazil due to the fact that the only break in the season comes in the latter half of December and the first half of January, as the Brasileirao ends and the State Championships begin.
Players could find themselves playing for just short of two years without more than a few weeks' break. Another problem is that the State Championships are minor competitions that the big sides often coast through, and before a World Cup year, a team could use their star players sparingly against opposition which are often far weaker than themselves. But in 2022, players could find themselves with empty tanks after what will be a grueling season in the Brasileirao which will end just before the World Cup begins.
There are plenty more hurdles to overcome before details are finalised for the 2022 World Cup, but given Blatter's comments, it certainly appears that a winter event is much more of a possibility now than it previously appeared.
For nations hoping to compete, at least they'll have nearly 10 years to get used to the idea.
Or perhaps, build their own dry-heat tanks to aid acclimatisation if it doesn't happen.
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