LONDON (AP) — Messi or Ronaldo? Winter or summer?
Those are two of the most talked about topics in soccer these days, keeping fans chattering and fixated on the world's biggest sport. One question will be decided, at least somewhat officially, next week when FIFA chooses its player of the year, while the other looks to be a never-ending saga that seems to be spiraling out of control.
Rather than ending the ongoing confusion about exactly which month the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be held, attempts by FIFA to clarify the issue — and they come regularly — only tend to muddy the picture.
One minute a consultation process is being established to talk to leagues and federations. The next a FIFA executive is blurting out his beliefs, sending the media into chaos anew.
"I think it will be played between Nov. 15 and Jan. 15 at the latest," FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke told France-Inter radio on Wednesday, adamantly saying that the World Cup "will not be June and July."
Major update to the debate, or more hot air?
FIFA seems to think the latter.
"The precise event date is still subject to an ongoing consultation process," FIFA said in a statement released a short time after Valcke's comments were splashed around the world. "As the event will not be played until 8 years' time, the consultation process will not be rushed and will be given the necessary time to consider all of the elements relevant for a decision."
It has become widely accepted, except maybe in Qatar, that holding football's biggest tournament in the desert Gulf nation during the searing summer months poses a potential health risk. Even FIFA's inspection team ahead of the vote highlighted possible dangers to fans and officials who travel around the tiny country away from air-conditioned stadiums.
Shortly after his first appearance on the radio on Wednesday, Valcke went back on the French airwaves — on RMC Radio — to state that it's "nonsense" to play football in Qatari summer.
Only in the last year has FIFA really started to listen to critics and accept that a World Cup in the usual June-July time frame isn't feasible.
So, after Sepp Blatter insisted in 2011 that "everything is settled for summer," the FIFA president performed a U-turn.
"In summer you cannot play there," Blatter said in August 2013.
Qatar's organizing committee, as it has always said, is getting ready for anything.