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Another dawn in Qatar as 2026 World Cup hosts note innovations

By Onochie Anibeze,  just back from Doha

Nobody heard the whistle of the referee signaling the kick off of the Amir Cup final here Thursday, May 16, 2019. But the game kicked off at 30.30 pm.

FIFA World Cup 2022 Stadium

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If the referee blew the whistle, nobody heard any sound. The crowd and the players synchronized with the technology at the Al Wukrah Stadium, renamed Al Janoub on the night. The great piece of architecture that hosted the 2019 Emir Cup final between the defending champions Al sadd and Al Duhail has a retractable roof and was designed to capture the traditional dhow boats and to highlight Al Wukrah’s traditional industries which include fishing and pearling. It is the first stadium built from the scratch for the 2022 World Cup that is ready. Khalifa was renovated and not only ready for the World Cup but will host the World Championships this year.

Brand new Al Wakrah FIFA World Cup 2022 Stadium

What Qatar showcased on Thursday last week with the Emir Cup final signaled just a fraction of the spectacle that awaits the world in 2022.

When the players took their positions on the pitch the two huge and captivating score boards showed a clock ticking from ten seconds to kick off. The sound the clock produced was so loud that nobody heard any other thing in the stadium. How would the players hear the sound of the referee’s whistle? They didn’t need the referee’s whistle to kick off the game. How?

Hassan Al Thawadi

Qatar, rich in oil and gas, in culture and now in hospitality, especially after winning the World Cup hosting rights, could not be rated a football nation. But their football culture is growing and even if one may not rate them a football country now it would not be out of place to rank them highly in the organisation of the game. They are not only learning quickly but also displaying innovations that are adding colour to the game. The big football nations, for sure, would learn some things from them especially in organisation and hospitality. The 2026 World Cup hosts were in Qatar to watch the Emir Cup. USA, Canada and Mexico were there. They are already monitoring Qatar to learn a few things and to know how to make theirs successful. And this is more than two years to the games. FIFA President, Gianni Infantino graced the occasion, so did Ahmad, CAF President. Presidents of USA Soccer Federation, CONCACAF and many top football big shots watched the spectacular opening and closing ceremonies of the Emir Cup and may have noted a few things they could adopt.

From the Public Address System, the ticking of the clock sounded pim, pim, pim as the hand of the clock ticked from 10. The crowd went simultaneously with the ticking sound – 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and at 0 the ball was kicked off and the game began. Nobody needed the referee’s whistle. It was amazing, innovative and entertaining. After that, the referee with his whistle controlled the game. The cheers that followed came from the crowd and there were no echoes from the public address system anymore. Al Duhail conceded the first goal but went on to win the thrilling encounter 4-1 against defending champions and favourites on the night, Al Sadd. The standard of the game was impressive. Qatar is raising the stakes in all areas in spite of the distractions football governing body, FIFA, tried to cause  by contemplating expanding the teams for the 2022 edition from 32 to 48 and asking Kuwait or any other country to co-host. FIFA appeared to be considering money that could enrich their purses before certain standards and norms that have made the World Cup the biggest spectacle in the world after the Olympic Games.

Qatar will host a compact World Cup, such that fans can watch two matches. Metro lines will link the venues. The longest distance will be from Al Bayt Stadium to Al Wukrah and that will be less than 40 minutes by rail.

‘We learn everyday and we are getting better with every event that we hold,’ Hassan Al Thawadi, the Secretary General of the Supreme Committee For Delivery and Legacy said in a chat with the media after the Emir Cup, adding ‘that’s why we will continue to hold events. They are part of the preparation.’

STAR PARADE: Qatar 2022 will be best World Cup ever – Ruud Gullit

Football legends were in Qatar to be part of the Amir Cup final last week.

They are all ambassadors of the Qatar 2022 World Cup. Many of them campaigned for Qatar to win the hosting rights. ‘And they have never disappointed since they won the hosting,’ Ruud Gullit, the former AC Milan and Chelsea star who won the European Championship with Holland said before the Emir Cup final. ‘Every month I come here since they won the bid in 2010, there’s always a new thing. The world should be ready for an amazing World Cup, the best and I repeat, the best the world Cup ever will be staged here,’ he said. Below is the list of football legends that are behind Qatar 2022 World Cup.

  • Cafu
  • Jorge Campos
  • Youri Djorkaeff
  • Roberto Carlos
  • Samuel Eto’o
  • Bora Multinovic
  • Miguel Malcedo
  • Javier Ceppi
  • Pablo Zabaleta
  • Tim Cahill
  • Ronald de Boer
  • Rudi Gullit
  • Fernando Hierro
  • Sabri Lamouchi
  • Ali Karimi
  • Wilfried Bony
  • Mansour Muftah
  • Nasser Hamdan
  • Abdulaziz Al Anberi
  • Nasser Al Attiyah
  • Mutaz Barshim
  • Wael Gomaa
  • Haythem Farooq
  • Adnan Hamad
  • Tarek Thyab
  • Hosam AlHaj Ali
  • Hatem Trabelsi

Key Facts about Qatar 2022

Qatar 2022 – Key Fact

The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will kick off on 21 November 2022. Here are some key facts about the tournament.

21 November 2022 – 18 December 2022

The tournament will take place over 28 days, with the final being held on 18 December 2022, which is Qatar National Day.

Eight stadiums

Khalifa International Stadium was inaugurated following an extensive redevelopment on 19 May 2017. Al Wakrah Stadium was inaugurated on 16 May 2019 when it hosted the Amir Cup final. Al Wakrah Stadium is the first Qatar 2022 venue to be built from scratch.

Six other stadiums are currently under construction. Main works on all stadiums will be completed two years before the tournament kicks off.

Compact tournament

The longest distance between stadiums will be just 55km (Al Bayt Stadium – Al Khor City to Al Wakrah Stadium).

The shortest distance will be 5km (Al Rayyan Stadium to Education City Stadium).

Fans will be able to attend more than one match a day during the group stage.

Innovation

Ras Abu Aboud Stadium will be the first fully demountable tournament venue in FIFA World Cup history. It will be built out of shipping containers and other modular building blocks that will be repurposed post-tournament into smaller sports and non-sports venues.

Lusail Stadium

The 80,000 capacity Lusail Stadium will host the opening match and final in 2022.

$6.5 billion

The total budget for the stadiums and training sites Qatar is constructing.

18oC to 24oC

The average temperature expected during the tournament – meaning perfect conditions for players and fans.

Accommodation

Fans will have a variety of accommodation options that suit every budget, including hotels, apartments, desert camps and cruise ships.

Thanks to the compact nature of the tournament, fans, players and officials will only need to stay in one place throughout the tournament.

Getting around

Fans will arrive at the newly-built Hamad International Airport, which will have an annual capacity of 50,000,000 by 2022. Getting around will be easy thanks to public transport, notably the new metro system.

Fan ID

Following the success of FIFA Fan ID during Russia 2018, Qatar is considering similar solution for fans during 2022.

Visa-free entry

Nationals from a total of 80 countries can take advantage of visa-free entry into Qatar.

Fans

Expecting approximately 1.5 million fans to visit Qatar during the tournament.

Central location

Hamad International Airport is a major transport hub and a vital link between the Americas, Europe and Asia. The extensive Qatar Airways network means passengers can fly directly to more than 150 destinations.

Football in Qatar

Football has been played in Qatar for over 70 years and it remains the country’s most popular sport. It first came to the country in the 1940s, introduced by workers from the oil industry. In 1950, the first Qatari football team, Al Hajah, was founded.

The club later changed its name to Al-Ahli, a team that continues to play to the day in the Qatar Stars League.

Qatar established its first football league in 1963. That same year, Doha Stadium became the first arena in the Gulf region to have a grass pitch.

For a relatively young football nation, Qatar has registered some significant achievements along the way to becoming a FIFA World Cup host nation in 2022.

By 1981, Qatar surprised the world with a run to the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Australia, defeating both Brazil (3-2) and England (2-1) along the way.

But the rapid development of football in Qatar did not stop there. By 1984, they had qualified for their first Summer Olympic Games, drawing 2-2 with France in their opening game of the Los Angeless competition before bowing out at the end of the group stage.

In 1988, Qatar hosted the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup for the first time. Four years later, Qatar again made headlines by reaching the quarter-finals of the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics with a team led by legendary Brazilian coach Evaristo de Macedo.

Their successful run through the tournament culminated in a loss to eventual finalists Poland in a closely contested 2-0 defeat at Barcelona’s legendary Camp Nou.

Later the same year, Evaristo and formidable striker Mubarak Mustafa led Qatar to their first triumph in the Gulf Cup, hosted in Doha and celebrated with much passion by the country’s football fans. Three year later, Qatar once again hosted some of the best players in the world for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, where Argentina and Brazil battled it out in the final in front of 65,000 spectators.

At the 15th Asian Games in Doha in 2006, Qatar won the gold medal in football, defeating Iraq 1-0 in the final. In 2014, Qatar recorded another Gulf Cup win – following an earlier 2004 triumph – by taking the title in Saudi Arabia.

But it was on 2 December 2010 that the path of the nation’s sporting history changed forever as Qatar was confirmed as the host of the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Since that momentous day, Qatar’s results on the pitch have gone from strength to strength.

A promising generation of young Qatari football players from Doha’s Aspire Academy won Asians U-19 title in 2014 and secured a spot at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. But the country’s biggest sporting achievement by far was being crowned champions at the AFC Asian Cup in 2019. Qatar won every game along the way, conceding only one goal – to Japan in the final.

This result literally brought Doha to a standstill, with its famous Corniche the scene of jubilation as Qatar’s communities came together to celebrate. This means that Qatar will be competing at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 as the reigning champions of Asia.

The women’s game in Qatar is also developing rapidly. In 2005, the Qatar Football Association (QFA) founded the Qatar women’s football team, which in 2013 rose to the highest placing of 111th in the FIFA ranking under renowned German coach Monika Staab. In 2010, the QFA also founded the Qatar Women’s Football League, which expanded to seven teams across Qatar for the 2013/14 season.

Last year, women’s teams from Qatar also played against the England women’s national team and Bayern Munich’s women’s team.

Leveraging the opportunity presented by the FIFA World Cup, Qatar 2022, Generation Amazing, a legacy programme of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), has initiated a programme of girls’ football in schools in Qatar and recently signed an agreement with the Dutch Football Association to develop more women’s football coaches. In 2016, the SC also partnered with Hamad Bin Khalifa University to launch an annual women’s University Football Cup.

 

*Culled from AMIR Cup final match Magazine.

 


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