2020 may not have been a good year for the sports fraternity as a whole, but Qatar offered better prospects for 2021 …
2020 hasn’t been the best of years for multiple reasons, with the COVID-19 pandemic crippling the world for most of the year.
Various sports, including football, have also suffered the most from the pandemic. Tournaments have been canceled, delayed or curtailed as sports calendars have been launched.
Asian football has also suffered. The internationals have been postponed, with the World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers postponed to 2021 AFC Cup has been dropped for 2020. The fate of AFC Champions League, most of the group stages remaining to be played, was unclear.
However, at a time when the whole continent sought a safe return to sport, the hosts of the 2022 World Cup Qatar intensified.
Qatar first relaunched their national competition, the Qatar Stars League (QSL), after setting up a bio-secure bubble and social distancing protocols on centralized sites. After proving their capabilities, Qatar reached out to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and offered to host the AFC Champions League West and East matches, including the final itself. They also hosted the final of the Amir Cup, Qatar’s most prestigious cup competition, on December 18.
What was most striking in the two finals was the fact that Qatar were able to organize both matches in front of a significant number of fans. We’ve seen fans slowly return to games around the world, but in very small numbers. Premier League matches in England saw only 2,000 fans in a stadium. In such a scenario, the AFC Champions League and Amir Cup finals saw 12,000 and 10,000 supporters come to the stadium.
The scale at which the AFC Champions League was played was also important. 30 teams competed in a total of 76 matches, played at three venues for the 2022 World Cup. With more than 900 players participating, Asia’s premier club competition was easily one of the biggest sporting events to have taken place. take place in a bio-secure bubble in 2020.
And bubble protocols have been praised everywhere. Mandatory Covid-19 testing, safe transportation, disinfection, appropriate medical personnel, and social distancing protocols have been implemented. Significantly, Qatar performed a total of 48,323 Covid-19 tests for these tournaments.
He also highlighted the preparation of Qatar’s venues, the capacity of tournament operations and the supply of fan experience. And now it has also shown that hosts of the 2022 World Cup can ensure the safety, health and well-being of all stakeholders as well.
Kim Do-hoon, coach of South Korean club Ulsan Hyundai who won the AFC Champions League, also praised Qatar and its steps taken to return to sport safely.
“We have been tested for COVID-19 every time we played a game the day before – it kept us safe and I have to thank the local organizing committee and the AFC. The bubble system was implemented end to end and we were unable to meet with anyone from the outside, in addition to a good quarantine infrastructure if needed. “
Qatar, as they prepare to host the 2022 World Cup, will further prove their capabilities by hosting several events over the next two years, starting with the 2020 FIFA Club World Cup in February. 2021. They are also expected to host an Arab Cup in December 2021.
Nasser Al Khater, General Manager of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC, said after the Amir Cup final on December 18: “Tonight has been an immensely proud occasion for Qatar and the people of Al Rayyan. It was the culmination of a rigorous multi-stakeholder effort over several months, starting with the AFC Champions League, until tonight when we saw thousands of fans enjoying the show in full. security.
“We are looking forward to hosting more safe and secure events in the coming months, and we sincerely hope that the world will quickly overcome the pandemic and return to life and sport as we have always enjoyed them,” he said. added.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who has attended both the Amir Cup and the AFC Champions League final, said: “Over the past three months, Qatar has shown the world how football can continue to be played and the fans remain engaged despite the Covid-19 pandemic we all face. Qatar has set a benchmark for the safe recovery of football worldwide from COVID-19. “