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After the tidal wave of corruption complaints that hammered FIFA president Sepp Blatter following the selection of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, the next gripe was the heat.
Temperatures in the Arab nation regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the middle of the summer, when FIFA holds its tournament.
And while a central component to the oil-rich country’s bid included air conditioned indoor stadiums and other forms of climate control, the threat of dehydration and health risks to players remains a serious concern.
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According to a report from The Telegraph, one proposal to combat the effect of the sweltering temperatures on players is to change the format of the game from two 45-minute halves to three 30-minute periods. A game of thirds, really?
Since soccer’s inception in the 19th century, it has always been played in two halves at the international level. But according to Arup Associates director Michael Beavon, whose company is charged with developing the zero-carbon solar technology designed to cool the stadiums, breaking the game into three periods may be the best way to protect the players.
"There is a moderate risk of heat injury to the players between 24C-29C (75-84 Farenheit) but if you go above that you have high and extreme risk of injury. The one thing FIFA do say, although it is for guidance, is if it's 32C (90 F) they will stop a match and play three 30-minute thirds rather than two 45-minute halves.”
FIFA has made no plans to make such a drastic change — at least to this point. The Qatar 2022 Bid Committee released this official statement regarding Beavon’s remarks on Thursday:
“Splitting the games held during the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar has not been discussed at any time. Statements on this subject made yesterday by Mr. Beaven from ARUP are without any foundation. All 64 games in 2022 will be played in carbon neutral cooled stadiums in two halves of forty-five minutes as per regulations.”
But with other nations around the world still fuming about Qatar winning the rights to host and the idea of holding the event in winter already quashed, soccer’s governing body and its embattled leader would be wise to explore all options to keep their players safe.
While the air conditions may be worse in the Middle East, consider the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. in the dead of summer when the list of host cities included Orlando, Dallas and Washington. Multiple matches in that tournament kicked off with on-field temperatures north of 120 degrees.
There’s also that whole issue with soccer culture and drinking in a country that severely limits the sale, distribution and consumption of adult beverages.