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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Qatar considers Iran offer to host World Cup teams

The boycott has led to the Gulf state to look to alternatives for accommodation

International hotel chains are mushrooming in Qatar ahead of the World Cup in 2022 but the country will still need to accommodate many abroad. EPA
International hotel chains are mushrooming in Qatar ahead of the World Cup in 2022 but the country will still need to accommodate many abroad. EPA

Qatar is considering offers from Iran to host teams during the 2022 World Cup, as an alternative to the boycotting GCC countries which it had originally planned on working with.

According to the chief organiser of the event, Hassan Al Thawadi, Iran has recently offered to host teams who will play in tiny Qatar in the World Cup which starts in four years time.

When asked whether teams could be based in Iran, Mr Al Thawadi said Qatar had received "numerous proposals from countries with regard to hosting teams" around the time of the tournament.

Mr Al Thawadi said he hoped Qatar's neighbours would lift a ban on their citizens visiting Qatar in time for the World Cup, which kicks off on November 21, 2022.

The country's original pitch in its bid to host the tournament included plans to use facilities elsewhere in the Gulf.

"I hope the blockading nations can see the value of this major tournament and can allow for their people to benefit from this tournament," he said.

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"This is part of the operational plan, but obviously it will have to be done with Fifa," he said. "Nothing is decided on this matter yet and it remains under discussion."

Iran is looking to increase its access to its neighbours at a time when the US is trying to isolate the country internationally.

However, Qatar's acceptance of Iran's proposal could prove controversial for the three Gulf countries boycotting Doha.

Since 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE cut relations with Qatar, accusing it of seeking closer ties with Iran and supporting extremism in the region.

Qatar denies the charges, but has since grown closer to Iran to circumnavigate the boycott on the small Gulf state.

Mr Al Thawadi said his plans included accommodating for the originally planned 32 and not the increase to 48 teams that Fifa has been considering.

"Our preparations right now are for 32 teams, the current format. All the preparations are ongoing based on that," he said.

"There's a feasibility study undertaken right now for a 48-team competition and then a decision will be taken both by Fifa and ourselves as a host nation," he added.

Accommodating another 16 teams would vastly complicate Qatar's task in preparing for the World Cup.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino last week all but wrote off the chances of a 48-team tournament in 2022, saying it would be "a difficult challenge".