x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Qatar neigbours could benefit in 2022

Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, has provided encouraging words to the UAE, saying that "nearby countries" could potentially host matches at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

ABU DHABI // Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, has provided encouraging words to the UAE, saying that "nearby countries" could potentially host matches at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Qatar defeated competition from Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States to win the right to exclusively host the international showpiece.

But Blatter said in an interview with French newspaper L'Equipe that Australia and South Korea proposed to host matches in New Zealand and North Korea, respectively, and "it could be the same in Qatar". He added: "Some matches could take place in nearby countries." Qatar's capital, Doha, is 300km from Abu Dhabi.

The Emirates already has three modern stadiums with capacities in excess of 40,000 and has hosted several international events in the past, including the 2003 Fifa Under 20 World Cup and the ongoing Club World Cup, which is being held in Abu Dhabi for the second successive year.

Blatter stood by Fifa's decision to award Qatar the World Cup, adding: "We are opening football to a new world and a new culture. The Islamic world consists of one billion people."

Last night, officials from the Football Association refused to speak on the issue.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae