The World Cup hosts are fast turning into a ‘go-to’ footballing destination in the world…
Qatar’s stock as a ‘premier footballing destination’ has risen considerably in the last few years. After being named the hosts for the 2022 World Cup, the Arab nation has embarked on an exercise of building world-class infrastructure including the construction of seven new venues from the scratch.
They’ve hosted several high-profile tournaments including the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, 2019 Club World Cup, 2020 AFC Champions League and more where they have been able to showcase some of these venues.
And they have achieved sporting success as well, with the Qatar national team winning the Asian Cup in 2019 and turning into a genuine force to be reckoned with on the continent. One of the men behind this ‘phoenix-like’ rise in stature is Mansoor Al Ansari, the Secretary General of the Qatar Football Association (QFA).
Qatar’s rise in stock is in no small part thanks to its world-class infrastructure and hosting capabilities which came to the fore during the COVID-19 pandemic that crippled the sport worldwide. With the 2020 AFC Champions League in danger of being cancelled due to the pandemic, it was QFA who stepped up to the plate and held the West Zone matches in Doha.
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They are also set to hold the East Zone matches in November and December, followed by the final.
“Hosting the West Zone competition has been a very unique experience but yet again it is a matter of working together and finding the best solutions to be able to deliver a very safe, secure and comfortable competition for the participating teams,” he told Goal .
“We are very proud that we were able to host it successfully. We are also very honoured and proud to host the East Zone and the final in Qatar. This is just us showcasing that Asia is one and we are an extension of AFC, helping to deliver such events. At the same time, we are making sure that the sporting world is still going on despite all the challenges of the pandemic.”
Al Ansari feels Qatar’s hosting of the continent’s premier club competition in a bio-bubble is possible only because of the support they have received from the Government of Qatar, Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and local entities.
“We are very proud of the trust given to us by the AFC to host the West and the East zone of the Asian Champions League and the final. This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the AFC and all of the local government entities which played a big role in us delivering this event which is a combination of everyone working together – the government entities and the sporting family of Qatar,” Al Ansari said.
He feels that hosting a myriad of tournaments with a high degree of expertise will only help Qatar prepare extensively for the 2022 World Cup which kicks off in two years’ time on 21 November 2022.
“We acknowledge the fact that Qatar has been successfully hosting major events for a very long time even before the Asian Games (2006) and it has been an ongoing process of hosting competition and events. This is a great opportunity for us in regards to build on our expertise before hosting the World Cup.”
There is no doubt that Qatar have turned into a premier footballing destination in Asia and given the unique technological features they are set to showcase during the 2022 World Cup, including the Advanced Cooling Tech, even the world will sit up and take note in 2022. Al Ansari asserts that Qatar will continue to strive to be a premier sporting destination.
“We always aim to be in the lead in regards to sporting events and also in regards to participation and our level of sporting (competence). At the end of the day, there isn’t a limit of how much you can learn and there isn’t a limit on how good you can get. We always try to become better and every single experience we face is literally a learning curve for us to become better.”
There is a chance that 2021 AFC Champions League also could be held at a centralised destination, as per AFC General Secretary Dato Windsor John. “Centralized formats are definitely on the table,” Dato Windsor John said back in September.
While implying that he has not heard such reports, Al Ansari did state that QFA are ready to assist AFC should such a situation arise.
“Honestly speaking I didn’t hear this statement, but for us generally, we hosted the West and East phases of the 2020 AFC Champions League in a short time and at the same time it was successful in the west and God willing, we will be successful for the East as well!
“At the end of the day, it all depends on the AFC and what they are aiming for. We are here to support. I believe that we were able to successfully the West (Zone) and we will successfully host again but saying we are the frontrunner it all depends on AFC’s planning and direction. It depends on what AFC feels and we are here to support.”