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Qatar crisis: Infantino presses forward football diplomacy to end imbroglio

Gianni Infantino

Bengaluru/Doha, July 14: FIFA President Gianni Infantino wants football and its global governing body to take a pro-active role in ending the political impasse in Qatar which is casting a shadow over the nation's preparations for the 2022 World Cup.

It is worth mentioning that 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts Qatar are currently embroiled in a diplomatic row with neighbouring Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries including Saudi Arabia, who have severed economic and political ties with it for the country's alleged support of terrorism-related activities.

Many international sports events have either been cancelled or re-scheduled owing to the sanctions imposed on Qatar by GCC countries.

In January, the European Tour's annual flag-ship event in Middle East -- Qatar Masters -- which has been part of a 'Desert Swing', usually sandwiched between events in Abu Dhabi and Dubai was rescheduled owing to travel sanctions so that the players would not have to take a detour from Abu Dhabi to Doha and then to Dubai.

There are apprehensions in some quarters that such a scenario may arise again in 2022 unless the diplomatic sanctions which were imposed from June, 2017, ends.

World Cup has changed perception of Russia - Infantino

Infantino expressed hope that things would be resolved soon and does not mind football's global governing body taking a lead role in it.

"Maybe, through FIFA and football, we could bring countries together and allow them to start having dialogue. Football can open up the doors to communication between nations," Infantino said in a press conference in Russia, ahead of the FIFA 2018 World Cup final between France and Croatia.

Meanwhile, in a break from tradition, it has been officially confirmed that the 2022 Qatar World Cup will be held in November and December instead of the June-July window.

The 2022 World Cup, the first to be he held in Middle East will kick off on November 21 with the final scheduled for December 18, which is Qatar's national day.

The decision was taken bearing in mind the extreme summer temperatures prevailing in Qatar during the months of June and July.

Ever since Qatar was awarded the hosting rights of 2022 World Cup, the 'weather' factor had been a bone of contention. The months of June and July are extremely hot with temperatures soaring above 50 degrees on some days.

Qatar had put an ambitious plan and had even come up with the idea of cooling technology stadiums to counter the adverse weather, but FIFA decided to play it safe and switch the event to November-December when cooler conditions prevail in the country.

The decision to switch the event to November-December had been taken early, but the dates were confirmed only now by the FIFA chief.

Infantino also added a decision to expand the Qatar 2022 World Cup from existing 32 teams to 48 will be taken in due course after discussion with all the relevant stake holders.

"We will decide whether it's 48 or 32 teams in the next few months. We must have discussions with the Qataris and then if there is a possibility with the FIFA Council and stakeholders. Then we will decide calmly and quietly what the decision is," said Infantino, who has been pushing hard for the expansion of the quadrennial extravaganza.

"For now it's a World Cup with 32 teams but everybody is open-minded and we will have a frank and open debate. But if everybody comes on board and thinks it might be positive to change to 48 we can have a look. All options will be on the table," he added.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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Story first published: Saturday, July 14, 2018, 12:22 [IST]
Other articles published on Jul 14, 2018
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