FIFA President Gianni Infantino described as "impressive" preparations for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 during a whistle-stop tour of the country this week.
Infantino met with tournament orgsers and took part in a seven-a-side match at Al Bayt Stadium, a 60,000-capacity venue designed to resemble a traditional Arab tent. The striking arena will be inaugurated in the coming months and has been confirmed as the venue for the opening game of the tournament.
"It is an absolute pleasure to play football at this amazing stadium, where on 21 November 2022 we will kick-off the greatest FIFA World Cup ever," Infantino said in a statement.
"Al Bayt Stadium is incredible: a true football stadium. It is breathing football and has this local touch. The tented shape makes it truly unique, while the Arab patterns used in the ceilings above the stands are just beautiful. I am speechless," he added.
Preparations for Qatar 2022 have continued despite the pandemic following the implementation of stringent health and safety protocols to protect workers from COVID-19. Khalifa International, Al Janoub and Education City stadiums have been inaugurated and are fully operational, with three others - Al Bayt, Al Rayyan and Al Thumama - in the final stages of construction. All eight venues will be completed well in advance of the tournament.
"I am very pleased with Qatar's progress ahead of the tournament. We have seen the plans, but when you see in reality, it is even more impressive. Qatar has been able to continue to advance during the last six months when 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," Infantino said.
"In 2022, everything will be close by and fans from all nationalities will have the opportunity to gather in the same public areas and enjoy Qatar's mild temperatures at this time of the year. It's a World Cup like no other was or will ever be," he added.
Nasser Al Khater, CEO, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC, said Qatar was in excellent shape and looking forward to welcoming fans from all over the world in a little over two years' time.
"When it comes to World Cup infrastructure, we're in a great position, with construction nearing 90% completion across all projects," said Al Khater. "At this point on the road to 2022, our focus is now shifting from delivering infrastructure to refining and optimising the detailed operational planning and fan experience for the tournament. We are also now significantly stepping up our promotion of the tournament to ensure as many people as possible have the opportunity to attend and enjoy this unique World Cup."
( With inputs from ANI )
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