Soccer News: Qatar Could Have Just Complicated the 2023-24 Season
As virtually every soccer fan knows, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is causing something of a scheduling domino effect. Since the climate makes it impossible to play during the summer, the tournament will be taking place in November and December. That will force domestic leagues to suspend their seasons, in turn compressing the schedule.
If you thought the issues were isolated to the 2022-23 campaign, though, that probably won’t be the case. Qatar was just named the host of another tournament — the 2023 Asian Cup — which seems to suggest another in-season interruption.
Qatar will host the 2023 Asian Cup, which will probably take place in early 2024
As of this post, we’re roughly one month away from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Once that tournament concludes, though, it won’t be too long until international football returns to the country.
As reported by Reuters, Qatar will be taking over the responsibility of hosting the 2023 Asian Cup. China had the honors but “relinquished the rights this year as it pursued a zero-COVID policy.” The bidding process restarted, and the tournament will now be heading to the Middle East.
The location won’t be the only change, though. In a similar move to the 2022 World Cup, the 2023 Asian Cup is expected to shift from the summer of 2023 to the cooler months at the start of 2024.
“The Qatar Football Association (QFA) has proposed that the 24-team tournament be shifted from its original dates in June and July next year to run for a month from Jan. 24, 2024,” spokesman Ali Al Salat told Reuters.
While that part is yet to be confirmed, it’s safe to assume the decision won’t require much more than a rubber stamp. You don’t agree to move a major sporting event to Qatar without knowledge of the climate and how that will affect proceedings.
That rescheduled tournament will probably overlap with the rescheduled African Cup of Nations, putting the squeeze on domestic play
It goes without saying that the Asian Cup won’t affect global football in the same way that the World Cup will. Domestic leagues should largely continue as normal, at least in Europe, albeit with some players missing. That’s where the challenge comes in.
While it isn’t unprecedented to lose players during the campaign — the African Cup of Nations has traditionally taken place during the winter — it’s still less than ideal for clubs who rely on Asian players. Son Heung-min of Tottenham will probably be the biggest loss, but other clubs like Arsenal, Porto, and Eintracht Frankfurt will presumably be without some of their regulars.
And, to make things even more complicated, let’s return to the African Cup of Nations. While the tournament was shifted to the summer to avoid pulling players away from their domestic clubs, things had to shift because of Mother Nature. AFCON 2023 was originally slated to take place in June and July 2023, but Ivory Coast’s rainy season won’t cooperate. The event will now kick off in January 2024 and continue into the following month, overlapping with the Asian Cup.
Again, this isn’t a completely new situation, but having two international tournaments take place during the same few months within a season isn’t ideal. Losing one player — we’ll use Son or Arsenal’s Takehiro Tomiyasu as examples — is a challenge, but also losing Yves Bissouma (assuming he’s seeing more playing time by then) or Thomas Partey at the same time makes things that much tougher.
Can clubs handle that reality? Of course, especially with two transfer windows to bring in the appropriate reinforcements. Will it make that much trickier, especially after a compressed season crowded around a winter World Cup? Yes.
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