Fabio backs Winter World Cup 2022

(Above) Fabio Cannavaro is in town to help give the Singapore leg of this year's Tiger Street Football tournament a leg up

The weather is too hot.

Fabio Cannavaro may have been standing in the mid-day heat at Marina Bay Sands' Event Plaza on Thursday but he was not referring to the conditions in Singapore.

Rather, the former Italy national captain was talking about the prospect of the 2022 World Cup Finals being played during the sweltering Qatari summer.

"The weather is no good," stressed the man who led the Azzurri to football's biggest prize in 2006. "It won't help the players' performance."

He should know, having spent the past four summers in the Middle East with the Dubai-based Al Ahli club - first as a player, and now as a member of their coaching staff.

"It will be tough," said the 40-year-old, who made his Arabian Gulf League bow in a match which kicked off at 10pm.

Even at that hour, the temperature was 42 deg C - a figure that can rise to a staggering 50 deg C in the day.

Such extreme weather forces local teams to do their pre-season outdoor training only after 10.30pm. Furthermore, to avoid the summer heat, the UAE football season runs from September to May.

One can only imagine how visiting teams will take to these conditions at the World Cup.

After all, temperatures across Europe rarely cross the 40 deg C mark in the summer.

To circumvent the problem, world governing body Fifa is toying with the idea of a "winter" World Cup - holding the Finals in the cooler months of December to February.

It is an unprecedented move which threatens to wreak havoc on the football calendar in most parts of the world.

But, as Cannavaro pointed out, it is also a logical one.

"Players prefer to play in good weather," he explained simply.

The only defender to be named Fifa World Player of the Year, he was speaking on the sidelines of the launch of the Singapore leg of this year's Tiger Street Football tournament.

On Thursday evening, he also turned up unannounced at the Sports Planet facility at East Coast Park to join a group of local players in a game.

The third Tiger Street Football Singapore will see 32 teams battling it out for the right to represent the Republic at next month's grand finals in Ho Chi Minh City.

As tournament ambassador, Cannavaro has made pit stops in countries like Cambodia, Australia, China and Mongolia.

But he has also been casting a keen eye over developments leading up to next year's World Cup in Brazil.

Needless to say, the former Napoli, Parma, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid centre-back is backing his home country to bounce back from their group-stage exit in South Africa 2010.

Spain, however, are his pick to retain the trophy and make it four major tournament victories in a row - a run that includes European Championship wins in 2008 and 2012.

"They are an amazing team," said Cannavaro.

"Everybody knows about Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez but they also have a new generation coming up.

"Over the last 20 years, they've invested in coaching and facilities and this is the result."

The same could be said of Germany, home to last season's Champions League finalists Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, as well as a league rated by Cannavaro as the world's best.

"They've invested a lot in younger players," he said of Bundesliga sides who have produced the likes of Mario Goetze, Mesut Oezil, Thomas Mueller and Toni Kroos in recent times.

"They've created a very nice footballing atmosphere, with beautiful stadiums that are at 90 per cent capacity for every game."

The same cannot be said of the Italian league, however, which has been plagued by everything from hooliganism to doping and match-fixing.

And there is no hiding the disappointment in those blue eyes, as Cannavaro reflects on the Serie A's fall from grace.

"It's no longer one of the best leagues," he acknowledged.

"But we can improve and now that I'm a coach, I hope to one day play my part."

fabiusc@sph.com.sg


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