x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Call to bring World Cup to the Middle East

The head of Qatar's 2022 World Cup bid said it will be a great milestone in football if they are successful in bringing the tournament to the Gulf.

The head of Qatar's 2022 World Cup bid said it will be a great milestone in football if they are successful in bringing the tournament to the Gulf. Having gone to Asia with Japan and South Korea in 2002 and South Africa next year, the Middle East remains unchartered territory for international football's showpiece event.

But Hassan al Thawadi, chief executive of the bid team, said the region deserves its chance to play hosts and added they would try again in 2026 if they were unsuccessful for the 2022 event. "Of course, it goes without saying we will do that [bid in 2026]," he said. "How many nations have gone to host a World Cup several times? South Africa has bid twice and won it the second time. "Our aim is to host it and bring it to the Middle East. But, in December 2010 when the successful bid is announced, we want all of us to be jumping and hugging in absolute ecstasy, winning the right and the honour to host the World Cup.

"That's what I'm focusing on right now. I don't want to look at the negatives." The region has had plenty of chances to showcase its potential over the past two months. Doha staged the glamour friendly between Brazil and England in November, while the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi proved a huge success with Barcelona coming out on top as they brought a full- strength squad to the UAE. "What I say to Fifa is now let people who have the love of football to celebrate such a beautiful and great event like the World Cup.

"I don't think Fifa have been blinkered, but for a certain period of time, Asia, Africa and the Middle East were not on their radar. "Fifa has come to realise the significance of the World Cup and what it means for social development, economic development and cultural development. "It went to Asia for the first time in 2002 and will go to South Africa in 2010, which I think will be a great milestone. But it will be a greater milestone coming to the Middle East."

Despite facing opposition from countries such as Australia and Russia, al Thawadi remains confident they can produce a victory. The high temperatures during the summer is one of the major factors counting against them, and one which contributed to Doha's recent failure in their bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Al Thawadi said they will learn lessons from that failed attempt and are working on schemes, such as solar energy and air-conditioned stadia, to combat the extreme heat.

"I'm not saying ignore the heat factor, but, for me, it's not an issue and we are looking at solutions," he added. "I don't like calling ourselves the underdog or comparing ourselves to other nations, but we have got a lot of strong points in our bid. It will not only benefit Qatar or the GCC, but the Middle East as a whole. Every person we have spoken to in this region has provided support and it will be a victory for all of us." @Email:akhan@thenational.ae