Qatar World Cup Shift Gives Japan Winter Blues

Qatar World Cup shift gives Japan winter bluesA November start to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar would cause severe disruption to Japan’s domestic soccer schedule, the head of the J.League told AFP on Monday.

A FIFA taskforce has recommended the controversial tournament take place in November and December to avoid the scorching summer heat in the Gulf state, a proposal which could be ratified by the body’s executive committee next month.

“If the World Cup does start in November, it would come right at the peak of the Japanese season,” J.League chairman Mitsuru Murai said in an interview.

“It would therefore have an extremely big impact on our schedule. But it’s a World Cup in Asia—and so we will have to cooperate by cramming in games in order to help make it a success.”

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, who heads the taskforce, has circled November and December because stifling heat between May and September leave few alternative options.

A January-February tournament would clash with the Winter Olympics, while April is the month of Ramadan in 2022.

“I’m also taking part in the taskforce meetings,” said Murai. “While no final decision has been made, it looks as though a November start is likely. That comes in the middle of the season in Europe, but in Japan it clashes with the season run-in.”

The J-League season traditionally begins in March and runs until early December, but Murai expressed concern about bringing forward the start of the 2022 campaign due to freezing winter temperatures in large parts of Japan.

“It would be quite difficult to simply kick off early,” he said. “There’s a lot of snow around in January and February. We could tweak the schedule to some degree, but there are parts of Japan where you just can’t play football in January or February.

“We would have to cram the schedule in the middle of the season,” he added. “As a result, beginning the season in March and finishing at the start of November will be a tough logistical challenge for Japan.”

FIFA has come under fire over the choice of Qatar as 2022 hosts and if the taskforce’s proposal is rubber-stamped in Zurich, it is likely to spark renewed criticism from European leagues, despite UEFA’s support for a winter World Cup.