With less than four years to go for the Middle East’s first FIFA World Cup to kick off, anticipation is slowly starting to build.
All eyes of the sporting world are now trained on Qatar, hosts of the first-ever winter World Cup.
The importance of the occasion is not lost on Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy. The top official said the 2022 FIFA World Cup has the potential to positively change the destiny of Qatar as well as the entire region, reported Gulf Times.
Al Thawadi said Qatar 2022 was not simply about 28 days of football, but leaving a lasting legacy to benefit future generations.
“This isn’t a tournament just to bring people over, celebrate football and leave,” he was quoted as saying by Gulf Times.
“If you truly understand what this does for you, for a nation, it changes lives. It can change history. It can change perceptions, economies, societies and industries. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the region — a region that’s absolutely crazy about football. The people of this region live, drink and breathe football — plain and simple. It’s the one common denominator,” he added.
Al Thawadi was hopeful that the current political scenario in the region would have changed for the better by the time the 2022 tournament rolled around.
“From day one, our goal and our aim was that this isn’t a Qatari bid. This was an Arab, Middle Eastern bid — first and foremost. We recently opened up our volunteer programme for people to register. Today, we’re at 250,000, and among them are people from the blockading nations,” he told Qatar Tribune.
“So if you ask me whether there’s a desire from the people of the region to celebrate, to participate, to be part of this World Cup, absolutely. And are we welcoming them? We’ll welcome them with open arms,” he said.
He also spoke clearly about recent speculations about the tournament in Qatar being expanded from 32 to 48 teams.
“There’s a feasibility study that’s currently ongoing. From our side, we’re continuing with preparations for a 32-team format. There’re a lot of issues that need to be assessed and addressed. I don’t want to pre-conclude what’ll be out there, but as of today it’s a 32-team World Cup,” he signed off.