Fifa 'happy' with 2022 World Cup host Qatar's progress
Top official of 2022 World Cup host confident Middle East nation can deliver 'beautiful' World Cup
Qatar is confident of hosting a successful World Cup in 2022 and it received a timely endorsement from world football governing body Fifa last month.
Top football official Hassan Al Thawadi, who is the secretary general of Qatar's supreme committee for delivery and legacy, revealed yesterday that they had hosted a "very positive" meeting with a Fifa team headed by secretary general Fatma Samoura last month.
"They are quite happy with our progress... and there are still a few items to be finalised, but it has been agreed that these would be finalised in 2017," said Hassan, without elaborating.
The endorsement from Fifa is a big boost for the 2022 host, who has come under criticism on several issues, such as the availability of alcohol for visiting fans, to the working conditions of the construction workers building the eight World Cup stadiums.
Hassan revealed that he is working with neighbouring Middle Eastern countries to provide fans and teams with a rich cultural experience, and pre-tournament training bases respectively.
"During the tournament, the teams will be based in Qatar, as per Fifa regulations," Hassan said. "But we are in discussions with our neighbours to be hosts for the preparations.
"Also, part of our plan in years to come is to encourage the fans to not only experience the beauty of the World Cup in Qatar, but at the same time experience the beauty and richness of the culture of the Arab world."
Hassan, who was speaking at a press conference ahead of tonight's friendly between Spanish giants Barcelona and Saudi club Ah-Ahli Saudi FC, said the clash at the Al Gharafa Stadium in Qatar will not be just a game for the locals.
This is not a Qatari World Cup; this is a Middle Eastern, an Arabic, and a regional World Cup.2022 World Cup host Qatar’s top football official Hassan Al Thawadi, who is enlisting other Middle Eastern countries to host pre-tournament bases for World Cup teams
It is not just because the winners will receive the Qatar Airways Cup, which is cast in 18-carat gold, but also because the organisation of the match will provide the Qataris with invaluable experience as they work towards the hosting of the 2022 World Cup.
"This is not a Qatari World Cup; this is a Middle Eastern, an Arabic, and a regional World Cup," said Hassan at the Sheraton Hotel in Doha yesterday.
"Even before we won the right to host the World Cup, we have hosted major football matches such as England vs Brazil, Spain vs Uruguay, Real Madrid vs PSG (Paris St Germain).
"These are all milestones; they develop operational experience and excellence."
"We learn from our mistakes, we tweak things, and we are preparing and training a lot of our staff, a lot of people in the state of Qatar," added Hassan, who is also the vice-president of the organising committee for tonight's match.
He lauded sponsors such as Qatar Airways who has brought in top sporting teams over the years, so that local officials can build up their experience in hosting major events.
Qatar Airways Group chief executive Akbar Al Baker said: "Qatar Airways believes in sport as a source of inspiration and a symbol of international unity, as teams and their supporters come together from around the world to celebrate the determination and spirit that are required to win."
In an earlier interview, Hassan said he envisioned the Qatar World Cup to be a "game changer" for future editions of the world's biggest football tournament.
"They (Qatar's Supreme Committee) have the same belief that this World Cup will be a game changer, not only in terms of how World Cups are hosted...
"There's no doubt in my mind that everyone is working to ensure that this will be a World Cup, a major sporting event, that will go down in history as a benchmark and one to behold."
- Lim Say Heng's trip is sponsored by Qatar Airways.