FIFA unlikely to change WCup kickoffs over heat
ZURICH (AP) — The World Cup match schedule is unlikely to change despite the international players’ union voicing concerns about 1 p.m. kickoffs in Brazil’s heat and humidity, according to the chairman of FIFA’s medical committee.
“I will be surprised if we can change it. Everything is arranged,” Michel D’Hooghe told The Associated Press on Friday.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter said this month that kickoff times are “established but not sanctioned,” and could be discussed in Brazil ahead of the draw next Friday.
Blatter has been lobbied by the FIFPro union, which objects to seven of 64 matches having 1 p.m. starts in the tropical cities of Fortaleza, Natal, Recife and Salvador on the north-eastern coast.
“There will be matches in warm temperatures and you have to be prepared,” said D’Hooghe, a longstanding member of the FIFA executive committee which meets over two days in Brazil. He also sits on the World Cup organizing committee which meets Tuesday.
The Belgian doctor said that FIFA already allows referees to order a drinks break in each half when temperatures top 32 degrees (89.6 Fahrenheit).
FIFPro secretary general Theo van Seggelen said the union gave FIFA a research document on the issue this week.
“We gave them some facts and figures, and let’s see if they are going to take it seriously. I think they will,” van Seggelen told the AP. “We have a good relationship with the medical committee so we try at least to explain the problem and exchange information.”
D’Hooghe said changing the kickoff times was unlikely, after the match schedule was worked out with Brazilian football and government authorities more than two years ago.
“I respect FIFPro but I think we take care of the health of our players,” he said. “We can’t say you will always play between 17 and 20 degrees.
“There will be matches in warmer temperatures and colder temperatures. This is one of the difficulties in Brazil when the distances are so big. There are countries who are participating who are used to that.”