Bin Hammam: Winter World Cup would help players

DOHA - Staging a World Cup in January could help players produce their best form as they would not be suffering from end-of-season burnout, Asian Football Confederation President Mohamed Bin Hammam has told Reuters.

The 61-year-old Qatari, whose country will host the World Cup finals in 2022, said in an interview that Qatar was also fully prepared to meet the challenges of hosting the finals in the hot Middle Eastern summer months of June and July.

Last year's tournament in South Africa saw several of the world's top players clearly performing below their best and many coaches said this was because they were struggling after long domestic seasons.

Bin Hammam, who is standing unopposed for a third term as AFC president at Thursday's AFC Congress in Doha, told Reuters: "If you follow the organisation of the World Cup usually the coaches are complaining that their players are exhausted by the end of the season.

"In June and July many of the players are fed up of any football, which is why FIFA came with the idea to finish the seasons and the leagues earlier by at least two weeks.

"Maybe people will think that if we organise the World Cup in the middle of the season when the players are still very fit, can still produce, can still can get better results, it will be better for the players, the coaches and good for the World Cup."

The idea of holding the finals in January 2022 emerged after Qatar beat off opposition from South Korea, Japan, Australia and the United States in Zurich last month.

Qatar's bid was based on a World Cup in June and July and they have developed plans to cool stadiums and training grounds. However, the ambient temperature can regularly top 40C in those months, raising health concerns.

Bin Hammam recognised there were organisational problems hosting the World Cup in January, but thought they could be overcome.

"Most of the important leagues in the world, usually, have this month off - not necessarily every country, but very few leagues continuously play through January.

"If the competition is organised in January, most clubs will not be affected because effectively they are in their off-season, so if it is a win-win situation we can do it."

He said any decision on when the finals would be held had not even been discussed by FIFA's executive committee, of which he is a member.

"It is not Qatar's concern if it is shifted. We can organise it in June and July when we have to face the challenge of the heat and we are very well prepared to make June and July two very comfortable months.

"If it is better for the competition to be shifted, then I think we should accept."

As far as matches being played in other countries, another issue raised since Qatar won the right to stage the finals, he said: "We have read about this in the media, but we have never discussed it in the Executive Committee."

Bin Hammam was speaking before Thursday's Asian Confederation Congress in Doha when Jordan's Prince Ali bin Al Hussein will stand against the incumbent Chung Mong-joon of South Korea for one of Asia's four places on the FIFA executive.