Gianni jets into Qatar for a stadium visit, game of 7-a-side and a powwow with the Emir

October 8 – Gianni Infantino praised Qatar’s preparations for the 2022 World Cup amid the difficulty of navigating the coronavirus pandemic after a visit to the Al Bayt stadium and a meeting with the Emir. 

The FIFA supremo visited the venue for the opening match of the 2022 World Cup in Al Khor. The Al Bayt stadium has the design of a traditional Arab tent and with a capacity of 60,000 will provide the backdrop for the big kick-off at the next global finals. The venue will also welcome group stage games, one quarter-final and one semi-final.

Infantino was left impressed by what he saw after engaging in a seven-a-side game.

“Al Bayt Stadium is incredible: a true football stadium,” said the FIFA president. “It has a real football feel and a local touch. The tented shape makes it truly unique, and the Arabic patterns in the roof are just beautiful. I am speechless.”

Last December, Qatar hosted the FIFA Club World Cup, but at the last minute plans for the Education City Stadium to become the centerpiece venue of the competition had to be ditched. In the meantime, the stadium has been inaugurated. Al Bayt, Al Rayyan and Al Thumama are close to completion as well, according to the Supreme Committee, the local organising body. Eight venues will host World Cup matches in 2022.

“I am very pleased with Qatar’s progress ahead of the tournament,” said Infantino. “We have seen the plans, but when you see the reality, it is even more impressive. Qatar has been able to continue to advance during the last six months while the world stood still – from infrastructure preparations to important developments such as the recent labour reforms announced by the government. If I was confident before, now I can say I am even more.”

The football administrator also met with the Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and local organisers. Infantino’s predilection to mingle with heads of state is gathering pace. Earlier this week, he dropped in on French president Emmanuel Macron and he also paid a flying visit to US president Donald Trump in September.

Infantino uses a Swiss ordinance to obtain an exemption from quarantine when returning to headquarters in Zurich. In Switzerland, Qatar is a country on the list of red zones.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1638366995labto1638366995ofdlr1638366995owedi1638366995sni@o1638366995fni1638366995