Sri Lankans are throwing their weight behind Qatar World Cup | Sunday Observer

Sri Lankans are throwing their weight behind Qatar World Cup

Saud Al Mohannadi
Saud Al Mohannadi

The FIFA World Cup 2022 will not only be Qatar’s World Cup but the Arab world and the Middle East and the success of it will be the success of Asia according to Saud Al Mohannadi the Vice President of Qatar Football Association who also holds the post of Vice President of the Asian Football Confederation.

He said that all eight stadiums for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will be ready by 2020 marking the first time in the history of the World Cup that newly built stadiums will be ready one and half years ahead of the quadrennial extravaganza.

Saud Al Mohannadi was interviewed at the Al Bidaa Tower, Doha which is the home of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, Qatar Football Association.

Excerpts of the interview!

Q. Qatar became champions of the Asia Cup 2019 beating strong opponents such as Saudi and Japan and will also be the next FIFA World Cup host. How are the preparations for that event?

A. Everything is progressing to schedule and on budget. We’re now the official next host nation and so after seeing Brazil and Russia deliver successful tournaments we’re excited for our own. We have already launched one tournament venue by opening the doors to Khalifa International Stadium in May 2017 when we hosted the Amir Cup final and welcomed over 40,000 fans to the new stadium. We will launch the Al Wakrah Stadium, a brand new 40,000 seat stadium in the southern city of Al Wakrah.

Then later this year we will be launching Al Bayt in Al Khor City, a 60,000 seater stadium. By 2020 all eight venues will be complete, as well as all of the training sites that we need for the 32 traveling teams. We have to thank the people of Sri Lanka for this as well. We have hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans here working on projects either directly or indirectly linked to the World Cup and they are helping Qatar realize its dream of hosting an amazing tournament.

The new Metro will open this year which will ensure fans can watch up to two games per day. The new road networks and expansions are all nearly complete, the airport expansion is coming along well and the hotels required for the one million fans we expect in 2022 are opening their doors.

Q. FIFA declared that the 2018 World Cup in Russia was the best ever, so it’s a huge challenge for Qatar to match it or do better in 2022. How would you explain this?

A. Qatar sent over 200 observers to Russia to learn from both FIFA and the host country during the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It’s a model we have been following since we were awarded the hosting rights to the World Cup back in 2010. We have had employees at every major sporting event since 2010, ensuring we see what is good, what is bad and what we should do in Qatar to make sure the 2022 tournament is one of the best tournaments ever.

I can confirm that Russia was truly amazing. I was there myself and saw the organisation of the host cities and the way volunteers interacted with fans. But every host nation has its unique tournament aspects and I think fans expect a different tournament every time. Russia for example is the biggest country in the world where some venues were over 3000 kms apart. The longest distance between Qatar’s venues is just over 70 kms. That means fans and players can expect maximum travel times of just one hour, which means more live games and leisure time for fans and more rest time for the teams in-between matches.

The tournament will also be in November and December meaning it will be the perfect weather for beaches, desert trips, water sports or outdoor leisure time. So those in the US and Europe can head here during their winter and experience great football and amazing weather.

Q. You may be aware that the European countries were complaining about the humid conditions and the high temperatures during the 2022 World Cup. But it’s amazing to note that the Khalifa Stadium has been installed with cooling technology.

A. FIFA decided to move the tournament from June/July to November/December back in 2015 after consulting the global football family (leagues, fan groups and confederations). Fans, team and officials need not worry about hot and humid conditions in 2022. The tournament will be played in November and December when the average temperature is 24 degrees which is perfect for players and fans.

 

Q. And how much are you expecting the total cost for the new stadiums and how many stadiums will be built for 2022?

A. We are estimating a tournament budget of around 23 bn QAR, roughly $ 6.6 bn USD. We are still over three years away though so we can’t say for sure what the final budget will be. Ras Abu Aboud is one of our most interesting stadiums being built and a world first for FIFA World Cups. Constructed using shipping containers, removable seats and other modular building blocks, the 40,000-seat venue will be entirely dismantled and repurposed after the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Its parts will be used in other sporting or non-sporting projects, setting a new standard in sustainability and introducing bold new ideas in tournament legacy planning. All of our venues have strong Arab influenced designs and will remain some of the most striking stadiums the world has ever seen long after the last ball has been kicked in 2022.

Q. How was the election tension you had during the AFC election for FIFA Council Member from Asia?

A. Elections are always tense, but always good fun. I always enjoy them as it gives me a chance to meet with some of my oldest friends and do what I do best, which is talk about Asian football and how we can take it to the next level. We always go into elections with a degree of confidence though and a lot of that comes from the leadership we have and the self-confidence in the work we are doing.

Qatar’s very lucky to have such wise leaders across government and all its sporting organisations. I am particularly lucky to have been supported by H.E. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifabin Ahmed Al Thani, President of Qatar Football Association, who was with me all the way. We also know we have a common vision with our neighbouring countries, which is to develop Asian football and see it succeed to the level we all know it can.

Qatar obviously came away from the last AFC elections in a very strong position. I gained a seat on FIFA’s ruling committee, the FIFA Council, and retained my AFC Vice-Presidency. I will continue to focus on football development across Asia in the next few years.

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