By Onochie Anibeze in Doha
The Emir Cup is a prestigious competition in Qatar but cannot rightly be said to command global attention. But why was the 2019 edition different?
Football legends were here for the final Thursday night. FIFA President, Ifantino was here. Football sponsors graced the occasion.
The media focused on it. At the end fans left the stadium satisfied that it was an epic final. They enjoyed their money. Al Duhail pumped four goals into the net of Al Sadd who, first showed sparks and actually drew the first blood, scoring on the sixth minute through Akram Hassan Afif.
He scored after a beautiful combination that saw the stadium stand to celebrate the beauty of the goal. Ali Hassan equalised for Duhail on the 15th minute. Duhail had a red card as early as in the 25th minute but they remained resilient with Paulo Edmilson scoring two and laying one assist to end the day 4-1 for his side on the night one could describe as entertaining. Al Sadd had three players sent off later in the dramatic final.
It was more than a cup final. His Highness Amir Sheik Tamin bin Hamad al Thani was proud of his country. This year’s final was used to commission Al Wukrah Stadium renamed Al Janoub Stadium built for the 2022 World Cup. The final Thursday was a build-up to the 2022 World Cup.
That made the difference and attracted attention of the world. It was a super show of culture, entertainment and football. The opening ceremony was amazing. It did not only capture the life and culture of the people but also invited the world to be part of what they would showcase in 2022. If it was a rehearsal for what awaits the world in 2022, Ruud Gullit, the football legend from Holland could be right. ‘Expect the best World Cup here in Qatar in 2022.
I’m sure it will be the best,’ he saaid before the match in a beautifully designed Mixed Zone. Samuel Eto’o, Yuri Jorkaeff, George Campos were among the legends of the game who are ambassadors of the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
For the glowing comment to come from Gullit who has seen it all in football is something that should interest the world.
‘You’ll see the game tonight. You’ll see the pitch. You will feel the atmosphere and then you can go and write your story,’ he told the media.
Nobody was disappointed. What transpired appeared to have even surpassed his optimism. The spectacle, beginning from the opening ceremonies to the game and the fireworks that marked the end, was simply amazing. The music was rich and fans danced away. It was all a mixture of foreign and local display.
Many went home thrilled by the atmosphere and they have their eyes set on 2022 for a lot more. Will it come? Time will tell but the people of Qatar are in high spirit and the Supreme Committee for the World Cup ably led by Hassan Al Thawadi appears unrelenting. Al Wukrah stadium is a 40,000 capacity masterpiece, 25 kilometres from Doha.
It is the first venue for the 2022 World Cup built from the scratch that has been completed. Lusail Stadium that will host the opening and final matches is still under construction. Qatar has promised that all the stadiums will be ready in 2020, two years before the kick off of the World Cup.