FIFA President Gianni Infantino has praised Qatar’s infrastructure progress and described the FIFA World Cup 2022 as a unique opportunity for football fans to experience a new culture and region during a whistle-stop tour of the country.
Infantino visited the 40,000-capacity Al Wakrah Stadium before taking a helicopter ride to view the other seven proposed tournament venues, along with several training sites. He arrived in Al Wakrah after becoming one of the first people to travel on the new Doha Metro, which will open to the public by the end of the year. He travelled from Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC), in West Bay, to Al Wakrah, a journey south which took approximately 20 minutes.
Infantino was accompanied by H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, along with H.E. Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti, Minister of Transport and Communications, and Engineer Abdulla Abdulaziz Al Subaie, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Qatar Rail.
“The stadium is very impressive. When you enter here, you can immediately feel how imposing it is, and you can see the progress which is being made here four years before kick-off,” Infantino said.
“I think this World Cup is extremely important, not only for Qatar but for the whole region. This World Cup is a unique opportunity – a chance to show the world what this region can offer; for football, but also for anybody in the world to come and visit a beautiful place, learn about a new culture and meet new people,” he added before pointing out that the recent World Cup in Russia set a high benchmark.
“There are many lessons we can learn from Russia. The first one is how to welcome so many people – 1.5 million people headed to Russia to enjoy the World Cup and they were all welcomed in a way that was unexpected to many. There were many fears about Russia, but it turned out to be a very safe World Cup, a very welcoming World Cup, in a country that made fans feel good.”
“The whole population contributed to that and I’m sure the same will happen here in Qatar. The Russian World Cup has been the best ever, but the World Cup in 2022 in Qatar – I am sure – will be even better,” the FIFA chief added further.
Qatar launched its first tournament-ready venue in the Khalifa International Stadium back in May 2017. The other venues, including the 80,000-capacity Lusail Stadium, which will host the opening match and final in 2022, are all scheduled to be completed by 2020.
H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi, said, “As always, it’s a pleasure to welcome the FIFA President back to Qatar to witness the huge progress we are making. This has been a landmark visit, with him experiencing Doha Metro for the first time and visiting Al Wakrah Stadium, which we are looking forward to launching in the very near future.”
Qatar 2022 will be the first football World Cup ever to be held in the Arab region and the first in a Muslim-majority country. In addition, the tournament will be the last to involve 32 teams, with an increase to 48 teams scheduled for the 2026 edition to be hosted jointly by United States, Mexico and Canada.
This will also mark the first World Cup not to be held in May, June, or July. FIFA World Cup 2022 is instead scheduled for late November until mid-December. It is to be played in a reduced timeframe of around 28 days, with the final being held on 18 December 2022, which is also Qatar National Day.