By Paul Nicholson at the Lusail Marina, Qatar
December 16 – It was a night of stars, fireworks and national celebration as Qatar’s World Cup organisers unveiled the design of the 80,000-capacity showpiece stadium that will host the opening match and final of the greatest show on earth in 2022.
Just a couple of days away from it being exactly four years to go to the final of the Qatar 2022 World Cup in the Lusail Stadium, Qatar’s Emir, local dignitaries, football legends, football federations and a good helping of the world’s media posed for pictures in front of ‘See you in 2022’ signs, witnessed some of the unique culture that this country will bring to the World Cup, and paid tribute to a stadium design that will become one of the iconic images of World Cup football.
Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee Secretary General, Hassan Al Thawadi, addressed the more than 1,000 people gathered at the Lusail Marina in Lusail City, saying: “With the reveal of the iconic Lusail Stadium design, today marks another significant milestone on the road to 2022. It has now been eight years since we won the rights to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and we told the world to expect amazing. With this stunning design of our showpiece stadium, I am proud today to once again be delivering on that promise.”
The design of all Qatar’s eight stadia for 2022 reflect the cultural traditions of a proud country excited and motivated to welcome the world. It incorporates the traditional ‘fanar’ lanterns and intricately detailed bowls that have been created for centuries in the region into what will be an ultra-modern stadium environment.
“The new stadium is a nod to our past and a symbol of an exciting future. On the very same land as the home of our nation’s founder, it sits at the heart of a brand new city,” continued Al Thawadi.
“It’s a city for the future, and once the World Cup is over it will form a crucial part of the legacy of the tournament as it transforms to become the heart of a brand new community. We hope that one day, future generations look at Lusail Stadium as a source of inspiration, perseverance and innovation that enabled the transformation of Lusail into the modern city it is.”
Qatar will undoubtedly be a World Cup like no other that has gone before it and the sensitivity of the stadium designs will provide that background imagery. It is an enthusiasm that is catching whatever the geo-political issues of the region and the machinations of a confused FIFA seemingly hell-bent on changing the international football calendar and its world stopping flagship competition, forever.
Legends get with the programme
Present at the design reveal were some of the legends of world football, many of whom are working in the region whose love of football at times feels like it is almost reaching bursting point.
Bora Multinovic, former coach of China who is now advising Qatar’s national team, said one of the aspects that will make Qatar special in 2022 with be the compact nature of the tournament and the ability “to see two games in one day. It is a dream.”
He also believed that the team, currently preparing for the AFC 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE will be competitive. That tournament has seen the Qataris drawn in the same group as Saudi Arabia who they will face in their third match and which has all the makings of a particularly spicy showdown. Multinovic plays down the edge that fixture may have from the geo-politics of the two countries, saying “it is the first two games that are important. We should get through to the last 16.”
Former Dutch and Barcelona star Ronald de Boer echoed Multinovic saying that “because everything is compact you are going to really feel the vibe of all the nations. Sometimes if there are big distances you can almost forget there is a World Cup taking place in a country. Here you will feel that the World Cup is happening, it will make it even more special.”
De Boer was less enthusiastic about an expansion to 48 teams saying “the idea is OK but sometimes you have to stop with a number. With 48 teams the games might not be so interesting and you have to think about the quality. But of course, it is a World Cup for everyone.”
2022 has been switched from Summer to Winter following concerns over the summer heat. The Lusail Stadium will be cooled to 26 degrees and again the message from the legends was loud and clear – the heat will not be an issue.
All pointed towards the enthusiasm for the project the Qataris have generated. Former Dutch star Ruud Gullit summed up the general feeling saying: “What they have done here is unbelievable. People are crazy about football. Look at the weather here today. You can play. All the stadia are close to each other, it is great.”
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