Qatar has had 12 years to plan for the World Cup.
Now, with the first games of the tournament just over 100 days away and the intricate match schedule announced months ago, organisers have requested changes that would make the event start a day earlier so the host nation can feature in the opening game.
In recent years, the World Cup host nation has appeared in the tournament’s first match but this year, in a break with that tradition, organisers took the unusual step of scheduling Qatar’s first game as the third of four matches on a busy first day of competition on November 21.
Now a proposal to move Qatar’s game to November 20 has been sent to the most senior officials of Fifa, soccer’s global governing body and the organiser of the World Cup. Those officials, a group that includes the leaders of football’s six global confederations and the Fifa president, Gianni Infantino,will decide whether to approve it. It is unclear why organisers— and Fifa — had not originally planned for Qatar to play in the opening game.
“It has been a longstanding tradition to mark the start of the FIFA World Cup with an opening ceremony on the occasion of the first match featuring either the hosts or the defending champions…,” Fifa wrote in a letter to members of the bureau. In addition to changing the date of Qatar’s opening game against Ecuador, the proposed adjustment would affect another match set for the tournament’s opening day: Senegal’s game against the Netherlands, which would be moved out of its afternoon time slot into an evening window.“
As the tournament approaches,the FIFA administration is now fully aware of the various sporting, operational,commercial and legal implications of this uniquely compressed schedule,” Fifa wrote in its letter.It is unclear when a final decision on the request will be made.The sudden push to change the date of the opening game has only added to concerns about Qatar’s readiness to stage the World Cup. Already fans are complaining about a shortage of accommodations and a lack of clarity over the consumption of alcohol duringthe tournament.
Should the switch be approved,overseas ticket-holders who had planned to attend would face the potential challenge of changing their travel plans and rebooking hotel rooms, and any players competing in European leagues would have one fewer day to travel and prepare.Organisers said they had consulted with Qatar and the football associations of the two affected teams before proposing the change. Its letter suggested neither national team objected to the change.
New York Times News Service

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