The high-ranking Qatari official listed out the steps taken by Qatar to ensure the AFC Champions League was held in a safe and secure manner…
The West Asian matches of the 2020 AFC Champions League is all set to come to a culmination on Saturday with the regional final where Al Nassr will square off against Persepolis.
The tournament, hosted in Qatar, has seen a plethora of safety measures and protocols implemented. The bio-secure bubble created by the Qatar Football Association (QFA) and Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) has come in for praise and will hold the country in good stead as the 2022 World Cup nears.
Dr. Abdul Wahab Al Musleh, advisor to the minister of Public Health of Qatar on Sports Affairs, has highlighted the importance of holding a big tournament like the 2020 AFC Champions League without incidents in the middle of a global pandemic shows the preparedness of the country.
He mentioned that the AFC Champions League consisted of 16 teams which is half the size of a World Cup that has 32 teams. Hosting such a tournament would have been a huge learning curve.
“This experience in Qatar, hosting the AFC tournament which has 50 per cent teams of the World Cup. Hosting this gives us an assurance that the country is ready for all international biggest sporting events that they are working to prepare. It gives us a boost to our understandings and experience. Even if there is a pandemic or any other major incidents, the country is capable of managing it successfully,” he said during an online interaction.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected most countries around the world and has restricted the entry of fans into stadiums in most tournaments. Dr. Al Musleh feels that the pandemic will last until the end of 2021 or a bit further until herd immunity is reached following the advent of a vaccine. However, he praised Qatar’s readiness and planning to deal with any eventuality.
“This will probably be going to last for most of 2021 and perhaps even longer. Maybe until the world reaches the herd immunity which will be achieved by vaccine protection, distribution to the public and other public health measures.
“For the continuity of sports, it will require that all sports agencies and that applies to Qatar, to have meticulous planning in place in all events in order to avoid becoming a conduit for further spread,” he said.
Dr. Al Musleh also explained how Qatar put together a bio-secure bubble for the AFC Champions League and the challenges that came with it while dealing with the pandemic in the country.
“We had a very short planning period before the tournament. The number of participating teams was high but we managed to put together a good plan. A tournament specific protocol was sent to AFC to be distributed in advance of the teams’ arrival in Doha. It was comprehensive, detailed and implemented the necessary arrangement at the airport, team base, training site and at the stadiums.”
All the players and staff were meticulously tested before they entered the bubble but even then Dr. Al Musleh detailed how Qatar dealt with the sporadic cases that turned up within the same.
“As we asked all teams to produce Covid-19 negative certificates, the majority of them did. We were planning so because of a lack of testing in some countries. We instituted testing at the airport on arrival despite the clearance certificate.
“We expected to discover sporadic cases during the arrival itself. This was the reason for instituting the bubble-to-bubble arrangements in order to reduce the infection during the tournament.
“I was surprised at the appearance of a large cluster of positive cases among one of the participating clubs – six members during the testing on arrivals – despite having a clearance two days earlier. The challenge was going to be different and big.
“Based on that occurrence, though it was unexpected, we had to fine tune the measures.”
Despite such challenges, the tournament has passed off without major problems and Qatar has proved its credentials in hosting major competitions even in challenging circumstances.