As a winter World Cup moves closer, the FIFA president continues to rile pretty much everyone.
On Tuesday, the European Clubs Association,a coalition of 207 of the biggest clubs in Europe, met in Geneva to discuss the possibility of moving the 2022 World Cup, to be held in sunny Qatar, to winter.
“We’re not in a hurry, there are still nine years to go,” said a seemingly relaxed ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge after the summit. “The feeling is it is probably better to play it in winter.”
That will come as music to the wrinkled ears of Sepp Blatter, who nevertheless this week admitted that “it may well be that we made a mistake” in awarding the tournament to Qatar in the first place. “If we maintain, rigidly, the status quo, then a World Cup can never be played in countries that are south of the equator, or indeed near the equator,” he then countered, in bellicose mood.
Blatter is an old man in need of a geography lesson, and then a history one too. The first World Cup was held in July 1930 in Uruguay (south of the equator), and he himself presided over the most recent tournament in South Africa (also south of the equator). However much he bangs on about Europe no longer ruling the world, he forgets that every footballing nation on earth has planned for a summer World Cup every four years for more than three-quarters of a century, whether in northern hemisphere or south. There should never be any reason to change that – not unless some bright sparks decide to stage it somewhere as climatically inappropriate as Qatar, that is.
I’ve yet to fully understand how US Open organisers somehow contrived to end up with their men’s final taking place on a school night, but as I watched Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic exchange increasingly brutal blows on Monday evening, the schedule became largely irrelevant. It was by no means the closest match these two absolute warriors have played, nor indeed the longest, but that didn’t make it any less compelling – and, of course, it also featured one of the greatest rallies their sport has ever seen. Nadal is now 27 years old, Djokovic 26; both have plenty of miles on the clock, but this is an all-time great rivalry that looks set to run for some time to come. We should enjoy it while it lasts – even when it’s on a Monday.
I’m all for sports working hard to give fans and television viewers as much insight as possible, and in recent years Formula 1 has done a relatively decent job on that score. But please, pretty please, can we dispense with the horrendously saccharine communication between victorious driver and team at the end of every race? The more I hear Sebastian Vettel whooping his way across the finish line, the more I pray for Mark Webber to commemorate his imminent Red Bull departure by giving his panto villain teammate a good old-fashioned knuckle sandwich. And is it me, or does team principal Christian Horner – “well done Seb, that was a great drive” – sound disconcertingly like Tim Henman?