FIFA‘s sudden decision to start a World Cup 12 years in the planning a day earlier than publicised so close to the starting line is both ridiculously late and – for supporters at least – wildly impractical.
Qatar’s opening game with Ecuador is set to move a day earlier to Sunday, November 20, having initially been scheduled for the Monday evening slot after three other matches had been played.
It is a move entirely typical of a world body long out of touch with the real needs and values of the game. It is also a move that cuts right to the very heart of the illegal, unethical and, to this day, utterly bemusing decision to award the World Cup to Qatar in the first place.
As everybody but FIFA seemed to know back in 2010 when their executives’ votes were bought and sold, it is impossible to play competitive football in the Middle East in the summer. It is too hot. So the tournament was moved, to the inconvenience of just about every domestic league and competition in the world, to the depths of this coming winter.
This, in turn, is why this year’s World Cup is being squeezed into as few days as is practically possible.
The 2022 Qatar World Cup will start a day earlier than planned on Sunday, November 20
Alongside the host nation Ecuador were aggrieved at the scheduling of the opening day
As brutal as it sounds, football needs it over and done with so that league programmes can resume. And this, therefore, is why four games were originally shoe-horned into the opening day, rather than the one or two to which we have become accustomed over the years.
It is easy to understand why the host nation and Ecuador were unhappy at being sandwiched between more glamorous games involving Holland and then England on opening day.
The first ball kicked at a World Cup has traditionally been by the hosts – as in 2018, 2014, 2010 and 2006 – or the holders – as in 2002 and 1998. In short, that game has always felt like an event in itself, the starting gun sounding at the start of a festival.
For Qatar and Ecuador it would not have felt like that and from the moment the draw was made that seemed wrong.
The further change is added on to the fact the tournament will be held in winter rather than the traditional summer period due to the extreme heat in Qatar, affecting almost every league
This, however, is not the answer. Not when supporters have flights and hotels booked and paid for.
One of the beauties of a World Cup – even this World Cup – is that matches are populated hugely by fans who do not have a dog in the fight, the neutrals.
What now for those planning to arrive in Doha on Sunday, November 20, with tickets for a game they had been told would take place the next day?
This is a decision taken far too late with, once again, absolutely no thought given to those who major tournaments are supposed to serve. And this at a World Cup that has long felt like an inconvenience to everybody but the blazered men in Zurich.