Too Darn Hot

By | September 12, 2013

 

For the first time in its history, the FIFA World Cup is set to be held in a country in the Middle East; the  2022 tournament will be held in Qatar.  The federation’s awarding the bid to Qatar was seen by many as bold and forward-thinking– as Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s president, pointed out, “It was time to go to the Arabic world”, as soccer is a game played “not only in Europe, but around the world.”  If we’re operating under the idea that soccer is the true lingua franca, we should act like it.  But symbolic changes bring with them technical ones as well; there are distinct differences between a global tournament being held in Qatar and one held in Switzerland, the most glaring (sorry) of which would be the heat.  The summertime temperatures in Qatar often reach 120 degrees; it poses a very real safety risk to the players to force them to play through such conditions.  And so a number of a FIFA officials, headed by Blatter, have floated the idea of a November-December Cup, when the weather would be all but ideal with a range between the mid 60’s and 80’s.

Yet Blatter is facing substantial opposition, primarily from critics who object to the scheduling conflicts such a move would create.  Shifting the Cup from the summer to the early winter would mean changed TV schedules, professional schedules; in other words, a shift could threaten profits for the television networks (namely Fox and Telemundo, who’ve paid a combined 1 billion USD for the rights), the clubs, and the players as well.  All for a competition which, for all the bragging rights winning confers, is not as financially profitable as typical club play. There’s mumbling about contradicting tradition as well, but that argument has less ultimate validity when you juxtapose it with the image of strikers fainting like schoolgirls on the pitch.

And yet in all the objections raised, it seems the wellbeing of the players has been completely lost in the shuffle.  Sports is a business like any other– but like any other business, neglecting workers is both morally reprehensible and ultimately counterproductive.  Assuring that a club’s best players are only barely recovered from heatstroke before beginning their regularly scheduled season doesn’t much help their bottom line.

This is hardly a problem unique to soccer; you need only look to the NFL’s most recent settled class action on the TBI’s of thousands of its players, or Joe Nocera’s columns on the abuse of NCAA athletes , to know that treating players like chattel is a sports-wide problem, an odd contrast with the immense monetary value our society tends to accord them.  Hopefully, in this small instance at least, the incidental fact that soccer players happen to be human won’t be forgotten.

2 thoughts on “Too Darn Hot

  1. Vinay Kumar

    I think it is very interesting how Qatar presented the idea of artificial solar clouds as a mechanism for cooling the stadiums back in 2011. It seems like research has been done on actually producing these but not sure that it is the most economical way of cooling a stadium:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NH-6Nhu4s0

    There definitely should have been more consideration for the players when selecting these conditions. I think this will fundamentally change the way they prepare for the World Cup (similar to how some athletes train slightly differently for games in Denver, CO due to the huge altitude difference). It seems like Qatar is still somewhat baffled as to how they are going to cool the stadiums although the answer may end up being that Qatar will need to put its money where its mouth is and foot an exorbitant (arguably the highest in history) air conditioning bill:

    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-09-13/world-cup-2022-in-qatar-between-the-clock-and-a-hot-place

    I would be surprised if FIFA would actually move the timing of the World Cup as it seems to delegitimize them as an organization in that there was not a lot of foresight when originally picking the location.

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  2. Matt Darlow

    While I’m fully in support of expanding soccer to the rest of the world, the fact that the committee that chose the World Cup to be played in Qatar did not give as much consideration to the immense effects of the heat on the players and fans as it deserved is ludicrous. Now, FIFA is trying to make up for their mistakes by attempting to move the World Cup in ’22 to December. Recently, several of Europe’s top clubs have come out in support of this move, granted it is a “one-off.” However, the sheer amount of effort to move the most popular sporting event in the world, not to mention the economic consequences, might be too much. Furthermore, if they intend to return World Cup ’26 to the summer, the entire process of moving would have to replicated. It is my personal, extremely biased opinion that the ’22 World Cup be given to the United States in order to ameliorate this complex and messy logistical mistake.

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