FIFA World Cup May Move from Qatar

FIFA executive says 2022 World Cup may be moved to colder climates, as pressure over Qatar's 'terror money' mounts.

Tova Dvorin ,

Israeli soccer (illustration)
Israeli soccer (illustration)
Flash 90

Plans to hold the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar may be cancelled, the German Bild newspaper reports Monday - not due to concerns over funding from terrorists, but simply due to the weather. 

“I personally think that in the end the 2022 World Cup will not take place in Qatar," FIFA Executive Committee member Theo Zwanziger told the daily. “Medics say that they cannot accept responsibility with a World Cup taking place under these conditions." 

Concerns have risen over Qatar's scorching temperatures, which can easily reach 40C (104F) in the summer heat.

Doha insists that soccer players will be safe from heatstroke due to new cooling technologies being built in stadiums and training centers for the competition, but Zwanziger countered that the guarantee does not preclude the possibility of disaster.

“They may be able to cool the stadiums but a World Cup does not take place only there,” Zwanziger said.“Fans from around the world will be coming and traveling in this heat and the first life-threatening case will trigger an investigation by a state prosecutor. That is not something that Fifa Exco members want to answer for.“

To compromise, FIFA has sought to change the Cup to a winter date instead, but the proposal has garnered opposition from domestic leagues for the potential scheduling conflict involved.

Convenient excuse?

Calls have escalated to move the Cup from Qatar for security reasons, as Doha is one of the leading funders of Islamist terrorism. 

The tiny gulf state has been using its oil wealth to punch above its weight, vying with regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and Iran for influence in the Middle East by funding a range of insurgent and terrorist groups in Syria. Among other things, Qatar is the leading supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Palestinian branch is Hamas.

Among the most vocal opponents has been Israel's Economics Minister and Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett, who called in July to cancel the Cup in light of Israel's self-defense operation against Hamas. 

"We have to call on FIFA (to) cancel that: don't allow them to hold the World Cup because this is a terror state who's funding most of the world's terror," Bennett stated at the time. "If we stop the money terror stops and this whole thing stops."

More recently, a group of British activists from Sussex Friends of Israel (SFI) and the new-formed Israel Forum Task Force (IFTF) staged a protest of the event in London, in a dramatic demonstration comparing Qatar-sponsored Hamas to Islamic State (IS). 

FIFA's president Joseph Blatter responded to the campaign Friday by saying that "everyone in the global football community has a responsibility to act ethically," and that "FIFA has taken the lead." 

For the moment, however, it is unclear whether the Cup will ultimately move location, as the prediction is allegedly not unanimous. 

"He is expressing a personal opinion and he explicitly says so," FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer told Reuters Monday. "We will not comment on a personal opinion."