Lee Wellings: Heat is not just on Qatar but on prejudice as well

It’s a worrying scenario isn’t it.

A searing sun, temperatures over 40 degrees, players and spectators wilting, the action bordering on farce as it becomes survival of the fittest, not the most talented.

It’s not going to happen with the World Cup in Qatar 2022 though is it? Just ask Jerome Valcke.

No, I refer of course to the Australian Open tennis. You see Melbourne can get quite hot at this time of year. And yet out in the burning midday sun go the players, armed with sun block, caps and the hope that somehow they will beat their opponent in straight sets and get straight back to the locker room without collapsing.

Canadian player Frank Dancevic fainted and his peers rightly challenged the medical dangers they were facing, Croatian Ivan Dodig saying: “Thirty minutes after the match I could not walk. I was thinking someone could maybe even die here.”

But these hot days, the hot years, have not left the tournament’s venue and format properly and seriously challenged, over the many decades the Australian Open has held Grand Slam status. I wonder why?

Could it be perhaps that observers are focusing on the heat alone, and accept that yes if you play a tennis tournament, or indeed any sport, in the Australian summer, you are going to be battling scorching temperatures from time to time, just as you may encounter a bit of cloud and rain too (Melbourne is not the outback).

So why can’t Qatar’s World Cup 2022 detractors focus on the heat alone and accept that once the switch has been made to winter…is there really still a problem?

Yes. It’s an easy line to ask why tennis matches are being allowed to happen in dangerous temperatures while the Qatar World Cup has been lambasted. So that’s not what I’m doing.

Instead I ask this – why do critics of Qatar not take the heat issue for what it is – a heat issue. Which has a genuine solution, if not palatable to many around the globe. For whenever the move from summer is discussed, particularly by the all too powerful UK media, shortly behind it comes an attack on Qatar along the lines of ‘why is it even being played there anyway.’

Do we have some prejudice still going on here? Are the kind of media outlets who usually promote justice and equality bothering to be fair? How can questioning Australia be about heat alone, whereas questioning Qatar has to reach the level, often in a muddled or poorly researched way, of why the World Cup is being played there.

If we’re talking about temperature in isolation let me reiterate my point on the 2022 World Cup, which I came to after a long period covering and contemplating the story.

Yes FIFA made an error awarding the tournament to Qatar without raising the issue of heat immediately. It gave critics immediate and justifiable ammunition.

But sooner or later, and I believe sooner is best, the tournament had to be played in a country with summer temperatures this high, otherwise are large parts of the world precluded from bidding? I’ve certainly never heard of such a ‘rule’. Sooner or later it had to go the Middle East, a region packed with football fans like, yes pretty much every other part of the world. And that means yes – it should always have been stated the tournament would have to switch to winter.

Is a World Cup final in Qatar in December 2022 really such a hideous prospect, such a travesty of justice, such a scandal an outrage? If so – why? And I mean detailed considered reasoning. Tell me, please, I’d love to hear it explained properly.

Because the bid was corrupt? Once again I say – evidence please?

Because Qatar isn’t a ‘football country’? This argument seems to have weight, but then again I’ve been educated about football supporters in the region over recent years, have you?

Because of the construction worker issue? The mistreatment of immigrant workers is a dreadful situation that happens in too many countries. It shouldn’t happen in order to prepare for a sports event. Sports events should not cost human lives. And, it’s absolutely essential that FIFA are now active in seeking ongoing reassurance. But this is an issue arising and spotlighted because of Qatar hosting – it’s not part of the original debate and reasoning over awarding the World Cup to Qatar. Perhaps it should have been.

So if anyone states, and genuinely means, that the Australian Open tennis heat is no different to Qatar football heat they are missing the point.

The World Cup should never have been arranged for a Qatar summer.

The heat remains a nice headline for those whose prejudices run deeper. And when the World Cup is finally confirmed as kicking off in the cooler month of December – we’ll see if and where the critics can redirect their own heat.

Lee Wellings is the Sports Correspondent for Al Jazeera English based in London. Contact him at ten.a1614761176reeza1614761176jla@s1614761176gnill1614761176ew.ee1614761176l1614761176. Follow Lee on twitter @LeeW_Sport