74 days to go to the AFC Asian Cup, UAE 2019

Al-Thawadi says no white elephants, plan B is strong and blockade is illegal

By Andrew Warshaw

November 3 –  Hassan Al-Thawadi, the public face of the 2022 Qatar World Cup, has shrugged off suggestions that the diplomatic and trade blockade of his country by Gulf neighbours could undermine the hosting of the tournament.

Unconfirmed reports suggest Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt want Qatar stripped of hosting rights, a far cry from Al-Thawadi’s assertion that the World Cup will build bridges.

In a hard-hitting response to the Saudi-led initiative, al-Thawadi, head of the organising committee, told Spanish publication El Pais: “This is an illegal and unjust blockade. Illegal in international law. It is a sad page in the history of our region.  How does this affect the organisation of the World Cup? We have a plan B. We have established very fast supply routes and the projects are adjusting to the planned programme.”

Although domestic football in Qatar lags behind much of the world, al-Thawadi insists there will be no white elephants after the tournament.

“We have a plan for each stadium,” he said. “FIFA calls for stadiums of 40,000 for group stages, 60,000 for the semi-finals and 85,000 for the final. If the building remains as a stadium after the World Cup we will reduce the capacity to 15,000 or 20,000, adapting it to our local competitions.”

“Our project includes eight stadiums, one of which will be completely removable, the exterior and the interior. Three or four will remain as buildings but not as football stadiums: we will use them for schools, apartments, and hospitals. We hope that the rest will remain as football stadiums. “

And on the thorny question of alcohol? “Very easy. There is alcohol in Qatar but it is not sold in public places. Only in hotels. During the World Cup there will be alcohol but in specific places. We do not know about inside the stadium: we have to talk to FIFA. We will respect the decision of FIFA and the sponsors. I know a lot of people want alcohol in the stadium. But there are countries where this does not happen.”

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