The confusion surrounding Qatar's hosting of the 2022 World Cup has gained another layer of complexity after Sepp Blatter suggested that the tournament could be hosted throughout the Gulf region.
Speaking in Abu Dhabi ahead of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup final, the organisation's president told the press, per Elisha Chauhan of SportBusiness.com:
This is a question I keep a big question mark behind. I passed through Iran and, even on a political level, they said they would be happy to host some of the matches. Not only the Gulf states, but also Iran. This is a matter for the United Arab Emirates as well, they are very eager.
But we need to take this step by step. We have up until 2022 to make a decision, nine years. The first step is how it can be made in winter, November or December. This will be discussed up until the next World Cup.
To spread it to other countries isn't a new point. It's an interesting one. I just talked with your sports minister at noon for lunch. They are eager to organise other international competitions. They had the Under-20 World Cup and now the Under-17 World Cup, they are also keen to host a women’s tournament here.
Ever since Qatar were awarded the right to stage the World Cup in 2022, their hosting has been highly controversial with suspicions of corruption lingering over the bidding process and concerns about the use of slave labour and social attitudes to homosexuality in the country, per Eric Wuestewald of Mother Jones.
Qatar's extreme heat and arid climate have also been cited as reasons to think again about granting the country the World Cup with worries over how the intense conditions will affect both players and supporters.
As part of their successful proposal, plans were announced for air conditioned stadiums and covered walkways to allow spectators shaded access to the stadiums and around stadium complexes.
Such hi-tech solutions appear to have failed to convince their detractors however, and now, the Qatari authorities must contend with suggestions that their tournament may be taken out of their hands and stretched across the Middle East or rescheduled for the winter.
Qatar have invested millions in their sports industries, with the country determined to push above its weight as a so-called, soft-power superpower, relying on artistic and sporting prestige to grant them greater influence in the international community, as per Owen Gibson of The Guardian.
The world-leading Aspire Academy for Sports Excellence stands as a testament to their ambitions with teams such as Manchester United and Bayern Munich dropping in on the facility for training camps during the regular season.
The country has also ramped up their presence within the media world of football with the Qatar foundation sponsoring Barcelona and Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane roped in to add credence to their World Cup bid.
Blatter is himself a controversial figure, who has been accused of corruption in the past, as reported by Gibson.
That the president has decided to expand discussions around Qatar rather than attempt to calm down the debate and consolidate existing plans highlights the lack of certainty and confidence over their suitability as hosts.
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