Football: Qatar determined to take heat out of hosting

Thursday, December 26th, 2013. Filed under: News
A computer generated image hand out, released by the Organising Committee of Qatar 2022 shows the stadium to be built in Al-Wakrah for the Qatar 2022 World Cup. The al-Wakrah Stadium, that was designed by AECOM and Zaha Hadid Architects, will house 40,000 people and will be used for some 16 matches during the 2022 World Cup. ©AFP PHOTO / Qatar 2022 committee

A computer generated image hand out, released by the Organising Committee of Qatar 2022 shows the stadium to be built in Al-Wakrah for the Qatar 2022 World Cup. The al-Wakrah Stadium, that was designed by AECOM and Zaha Hadid Architects, will house 40,000 people and will be used for some 16 matches during the 2022 World Cup.
©AFP PHOTO / Qatar 2022 committee

(AFP) – The debate may be raging over whether the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar should be switched to the winter, but one party content to stick with the original summer dates are the local organisers themselves.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has launched a consultation process over whether the football showpiece should be moved so as not to endanger players’ and fans’ health in the unbearable summer heat that can reach 50 degrees celsius.

Organisers, though, are adamant they can come through with their plans to keep the stadia cool.

“We have always said that we can organise the World Cup in summer,” said Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary-general of the organising committee, at the recent Doha Goals forum.

“But if the world of football or FIFA wants to hold it in winter, we will be delighted and ready to. But if they want it in summer, we are also ready.”

With work due to get underway on the first stadium Al Wakrah, 20 kilometres from Doha, in a few weeks, air conditioning will be one of the primary features of the building.

The organisers are aiming for temperatures of 25-26 degrees celsius with the aid of the air conditioning.

“Air conditioning will be in both the stadia and on the training grounds,” a source close to the organising committee told AFP.

“To make it air conditioned is not that difficult. The real challenge, is to consume the least amount of energy possible.

“We are reflecting on the questions over shade and sunlight, the time of the kick-offs, etc,” he added.

However, not all are convinced that top class athletes would suffer playing in such hot temperatures.

Sebastien Racinais, a French physiologist living in Qatar, told AFP that there are many examples of athletes defying high temperatures and even posting performances that are better than those under more clement conditions.

“There are many examples which show that it is possible to play sport in extreme weather conditions,” he said.

Heat and humidity

“We spoke a lot about the heat and humidity of Beijing ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games.

“It was written that it would be impossible to run the men’s marathon in under three hours.

“The race was won in 2hr 06min (2hr 06min 32sec by the now deceased Kenyan Kenneth Wanjiru), breaking the Olympic record by three minutes.”

Racinais said if the teams prepared correctly there would be little difference in the effects of heat for the players.

“The players are going to have to adapt to the heat by training in a hot environment,” he said.

“Some of them will adapt very quickly, other more slowly.

“The average time for adapting will be between 10 days and two weeks. If you compare matches played in a temperate environment and a hot one, the findings are that the level of tiredness at the end of the match and the recovery period is the same .. 24 to 48 hours.

“Thus the teams are going to have to adapt their recuperation routines but will be able to play games at the same rate as usual.

“They won’t be able to cover as much ground as usual in matches but they will be able to sprint at their normal speed, in some cases faster.

“Also in a hot environment, passing is more accurate. If the teams run less, the pressure from the opponent is logically less.”

Another thorny issue over moving the dates is the effect on the 2022 Winter Olympics with Blatter himself preferring November-December rather than January-February which would impinge on the likely Games dates.

There could also be trouble with American broadcasters such as Fox and NBC, who in the months of November and December are tied into broadcasting the NFL although according to several sources BeIn Sport America, subsidiary of Qatari TV broadcaster Al Jazeera, would be more than willing to step into the breach.

Whether by staying loyal to the original summer dates improves the chances of the national side not being embarrassed is debatable but what is not is that they are investing millions in young talent.

Qatar have hired Ivan Bravo, formerly director of strategy at Real Madrid, who is head of the “Aspire Academy” where he will focus on developing footballers between the age of 14 to 18 and who he hopes will form the backbone of the future national side.

Some recent results have been encouraging — the Under-16 side beat the youth team of German side Borussia Moenchengladbach 7-1 while the Qatari Under-19 team beat the Brazilian Under-20 team.

Bravo, though, is realistic.

“We are going to approach this humbly. These results don’t mean we are as good as Brazil,” he said.

“Think of what makes up a national side. You have to have a coach, and players reaching maturity at the right time.

“These good results though are a sign that we can compete against any side.”

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