Soccer

De Boer: 2022 WCup would be better in winter

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LONDON (AP)

Ronald de Boer first helped Qatar win the right to host the 2022 World Cup, and now he's calling for the tournament to be moved to winter.

The former Netherlands midfielder, who still works for Qatar as a football advisor, appealed to the desert nation's leadership to heed UEFA President Michel Platini's request that the tournament is not staged in the sweltering summer heat.

De Boer spoke at the Leaders in Football conference, but said he made his views clear to Qatar's bid team ahead of the surprise victory in the 2010 vote.

''We went for the summer of course ... but you have a lot of people doubting that and you look for other possibilities,'' De Boer said. ''And I said already from the start, `Why not (the winter)?'''

Platini, who could be FIFA president from 2015, is willing to reschedule Europe's football calendar to allow the World Cup to be played in the winter.

''I think it's great what Platini did to come forward out and say what he thought,'' De Boer said. ''And now everyone's talking about it. So it's the first step ... I said sometimes to the (Qatari) Supreme Committee, `I would do it in the winter.' But they can't say that.''

FIFA President Sepp Blatter insists Qatar would have to make a formal request to dramatically move to dates of the World Cup. But Nasser Al-Khater, the organizing committee spokesman, said the request would have to come from FIFA.

''I think all the bodies together to come to a common solution,'' De Boer said on the sidelines of the conference. ''It's very easy to stick with the old thing because we've done it already for years.''

The biggest concern is about how supporters would cope in temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) if the tournament is staged in June and July as usual. The stadiums are due to be air conditioned, but De Boer is concerned about how fans would cope when moving around Qatar.

''You have to drink a lot and people have to take care of themselves,'' said De Boer, who played for Qatari teams at the end of a career with Ajax, FC Twente, Barcelona and Rangers. ''So for me the best thing for me is the winter. For the fans the best thing is the winter.''

And players from most European teams could also be at their peak then.

''A tournament like the World Cup can benefit from players not being so burned out after a long season,'' De Boer said. ''You have everyone well-adjusted and physically fit (in the winter), and get the best out of the players. So you see a better tournament. I think there's a big possibility in that so why not try it?''

The tiny Middle Eastern emirate beat competition from Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States to land the 2022 tournament, becoming the smallest country ever to be a World Cup host.

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Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarris

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