Asian leader wants Europe to push for winter WCup

European football leaders should urge FIFA to move the World Cup

in Qatar to cooler winter months, according to an Asian Football

Confederation presidential candidate.

Yousuf al-Serkal told The Associated Press on Wednesday that

influential power brokers in Europe could lead the debate, which

has intensified more than two years after FIFA chose Qatar to host

in June and July 2022.

”Major clubs from Europe and also major football federations

should seek with FIFA to move this competition from the summer,”

Al-Serkal said in an interview ahead of meeting FIFA President Sepp

Blatter. ”I think the decision should be taken now.”

”Players will not perform at the best level that they have (in

desert heat). It’s not only for the success of the competition …

but also for the health of the participants, and what about the

fans?”

Al-Serkal said the issue is important for football, though will

probably not be a factor in the May 2 presidential poll of 46 AFC

member nations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The United Arab Emirates Football Association president is

competing against Sheik Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain

and Thailand’s Worawi Makudi to replace Mohamed bin Hammam, who

helped guide his native Qatar to win World Cup hosting rights

before being expelled by FIFA.

Speculation about switching the tournament started within days

of the December 2010 vote and has flared again. FIFA insists Qatar

must propose any change, however. Though that could provoke a legal

challenge from losing bidders, including the United States.

Still, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke recently suggested

medical advice could be cited to justify a winter move, while

European club leaders met World Cup organizers in Doha on a

fact-finding trip. Wealthy clubs and leagues would be most

disrupted by radically changing the traditional European football

calendar.

Al-Serkal’s view will hold weight due to his close ties with

Qatar.

He told the AP of an ”understanding” he has with Qatari 2022

organizing chief Hassan al-Thawadi, who will compete with Sheik

Salman in a separate May 2 election for Asian countries to choose

one of their delegates to sit on FIFA’s ruling executive

committee.

”He’s a smart young man,” Al-Serkal said of Al-Thawadi. ”In

my opinion, he has the capability.”

Both Asian elections fill vacancies left by bin Hammam, who was

banned for life in December by FIFA when he resigned during a probe

into AFC accounts and commercial contracts.

Four years ago, he won a bitter election for the FIFA seat

against Sheik Salman. The May 2 presidential election – to complete

the remaining two years of bin Hammam’s mandate – could split along

similar lines. Al-Serkal and Makudi, who also represents Asia on

FIFA’s board, are long-time allies of the former president.

Al-Serkal said the sheik ”is a good friend of mine” but

suggests his own feat in building a strong UAE national league

compared to Bahrain’s could be a key election issue.

”Who would be more capable of leading? A man who has developed

a professional league and started a professional league in his own

country, or a man who has not yet started such a competition?”

Al-Serkal asked.

Since 2003, the UAE has hosted the Under-20 World Cup, two Club

World Cups and a Beach Soccer World Cup for FIFA. However,

Al-Serkal said he is not seeking Blatter’s specific

endorsement.

”If he chooses to announce, I will appreciate it. If he chooses

not to announce, I will understand,” he said of the FIFA

president, who is scheduled to attend the vote in Malaysia.