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Batistuta keen to avoid Qatar v England in 2022 Cup bid

By Russell Barder

Gabriel Batistuta
Batistuta scored 25 goals in 21 games for Qatari side Al-Arabi

England's 2018 World Cup bid has found an unlikely ally in the form of former Argentina striker Gabriel Batistuta.

The 40-year-old, who helped knock England out of the 1998 World Cup, is now an ambassador for Qatar's 2022 bid.

In an interview with BBC Sport, he said he wanted England to win the race for 2018 to avoid the prospect of going up against them for the 2022 tournament.

"I'm aware England will present a bid," he told BBC Sport. "As a representative of Qatar, I hope England win in 2018."

Batistuta, nicknamed Batigol for his goalscoring exploits while playing for Fiorentina in Italy, ended his playing career with Qatari side Al-Arabi and has fond memories of his time there.

The World Cup has never been staged in the Middle East but Qatar face stiff competition from a host of other nations vying to stage the tournament for the first time.

They will be directly up against Indonesia and South Korea, who staged the tournament with Japan in 2002.

They could also face competition from Australia, Belgium and Holland, Spain and Portugal, Japan, Russia, as well as England, if their bids for the 2018 World Cup fail.

However, Batistuta is confident that Qatar has a strong case to put forward and believes the country has some unique selling points.

There are stadiums that enjoy a cooling system and you can choose the temperature at which you play the match

Gabriel Batistuta

"The Islamic culture is a question mark for many people across the world, but Qatar opens its doors to supporters all over the world so they can learn from this old culture," he said.

"The second important thing to bear in mind is that it will be played in a small country in different conditions to what people have experienced before.

"We won't need planes to transport people from one stadium to another. There are trains, but this may be an option only for those who do not wish to walk, and the fact that the stadiums are so close allows the supporters to follow their teams by staying at the same hotel.

"They can also choose to watch other matches of other teams they may be interested in, even though they're not official supporters of those teams. So will it be an intimate tournament? Yes."

One question mark against hosting the tournament in the Middle East is the climate.

The Khalifa Stadium
The Khalifa Stadium in Doha played host to England v Brazil in 2009

The World Cup is traditionally held in the European football off-season in June and July and temperatures in Qatar can often reach 41C.

However, the country boosts a range of modern stadiums to match any in the world, and Batistuta revealed that playing in them is easier than people may think.

"When I arrived in Qatar six years ago there were two or three stadiums," he added. "Now, four years later, we see stadiums all over the place - top-class stadiums.

"I'm sure the climate won't be a problem. I played there for two years and played a few matches in the heat but it was possible to play.

"That was six years ago and currently there are stadiums that enjoy a cooling system and you can choose the temperature at which you play the match.

"So, as you can imagine, in 10 years' time the technology would have improved so each of the stadiums that will be used will have it."

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see also
2018 World Cup bidders make cases
04 Dec 09 |  Internationals
England vaunts 2018 World Cup bid
01 Dec 09 |  Business
Beckham pledges 2018 bid effort
03 Dec 09 |  World Cup 2010
Warner supports England 2018 bid
28 Nov 09 |  World Cup 2010
England 2018 ambassadors unveiled
22 Oct 09 |  Football
Argentines back England Cup bid
17 Sep 09 |  Football

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