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Qatar World Cup should be played during Canadian winter

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It has been a controversial week for the institution of the World Cup. Excuse the poor attempt at a pun, but the world's biggest sporting event has been taking a lot of heat the last few days.

UEFA president Michel Platini ignited the firestorm on Tuesday when he reiterated his oft-repeated and quite sensible position that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar take place during the European (and Canadian) winter.

The oppressive heat of the Gulf state during June and July, which is typically when the World Cup is held, would make a summer tournament uncomfortable at best for fans and players, and unbearable at worst.

"I hope it will be held in winter," he told the London Evening Standard. "We have to go to Qatar when it is good for everybody to participate."

Not surprisingly, Platini's comments set off the predictable round of griping, grousing and Eurocentric grumbling.

The phrase "winter World Cup" is a touchstone for argument these days, nevermind that the last World Cup was held in winter (June in South Africa is, after all, winter in South Africa) and that the next one will be as well.

Of course, what this is really about is the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and the rest of the continent's big, powerful leagues preferring not to have to take an extended break in November or December, which is when Platini is suggesting the 2022 competition be held.

Having said that, the divisions of Spain, Italy and Germany traditionally take a few weeks off in early winter, anyway, so the adjustment from their end wouldn't be much of a problem at all.

And that's precisely the point. A winter World Cup would not be a problem. Qualification schedules would only have to be moved up about a month, and the affected leagues have a decade to figure out how they'll handle the stoppage.

After all, it's not like this doesn't happen in other parts of the world every four years.

The June-July World Cup goes right through North America's Major League Soccer season, and many South American leagues -- including the lucrative Brazilian championship -- are interrupted by the "summer" World Cups as well. Even in the more wintry climes of Europe, such as Norway, the customary World Cup schedule falls in the middle of their league campaigns.

No country, no region, has a monopoly on the seasons. And if that seems obvious, it's because this issue is actually very straightforward. Events should be held when it makes sense to hold them in the location that is doing the holding.

Plain and simple.

"If we stop from November 2 to December 20 it means, instead of finishing in May, (most of the European leagues) stop in June," said Platini. "It's not a big deal."

Spotkicks

FIFA released the 2014 World Cup match schedule on Thursday, and while they're rightfully taking some heat for the mid-day kickoff times in cities such as Recife and Salvador they essentially had their hands tied from the start by a stubborn organizing committee that insisted the matches be spread across the entire country. Brazil isn't a small place, and the notion that each of the 32 sides should play their group matches over the expanse of it is absurd.

It's been another strange week in the life of Steve Kean.

On Monday it was rumoured the Blackburn Rovers boss had been sacked the night before, only for him to turn up the next morning and conduct training.

Kean is wildly unpopular with Rovers fans who saw their club relegated from the Premier League in May, and on Friday the 44-year-old resigned his position, saying it had become "untenable." If he was at all perceptive he'd have realized that six months ago.

Zinedine Zidane's head-butt on Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final has been immortalized in art. A bronze statue portraying the incident was recently completed by Algerian sculptor Adel Abdessemed and will be on display at the Paris' Pompidou from October to January.

jerradpeters@gmail.com Twitter @peterssoccer

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 29, 2012 C9

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